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P L AY W I T H T H E B E S T ™

Plays With The Best.

Custom Light Evan Marien x Dana Hawkins

Bass Super Steels

Evan Marien photography by PixFMJournalism


bas536206_0618_ghs.indd 1 3/29/18 11:50 AM

promise of the feel
North Hollywood, California . February 13th 5:58 PM
An acoustic instrument produces vibrations that resonate musically and
emotionally. Corey McCormick with Lukas Nelson & Promise of the
Real/Neil Young plays his MOD TX bass in the studio. This is when feel
matters most. When the notes are carefully curated. When the song
dictates everything else.
Ovation, innovation that promises effortless playability.

© 2018 Drum Workshop, Inc. All rights reserved.

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©2018 FMIC. FENDER, FENDER in script, P BASS and the distinctive headstock commonly found
on Fender guitars and basses are registered trademarks of Fender Musical Instruments Corporation.

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C ontents

AUGUST 2018 | VOLUME 29, NUMBER 8 | B A S S P L AY E R . C O M D B S T W


Lowdown, Dig My Rig,

the Real World,

Court of Opinion
Electro-Harmonix, Grosbeak,
Deepspace, Enki, Omec

Mark Dronge of DR Strings

First-call magic man

14 SAM KISZKA Hard rock is
alive with Greta Van Fleet
From Collective Soul to
driving the Serengeti
A documentary on all
things bass

26 ROCCO PRESTIA Contour & Slimline
After 50 years with Tower Of Power, Rocco reflects on his style and influence, Contour ABGs
his struggles, and his future—he’s still got to funkifize. By Chris Jisi 46 BASSLINE
BPA-1 preamp

A look behind the Dixie Dregs’ retrospective Dawn of the Dregs tour, with a

longtime superfan of the band. By Steve Bailey
Active electronics


Swallow/Citron something
Robert Sledge kicks the distortion on and off while spinning a melodic, something
supportive line and an effervescent solo, from the trio’s ’94 debut.

Cover photo by Paul Haggard Jaco’s “Liberty City”

Bass Player (ISSN 1050-785X) is published 13 times a year, monthly plus a Holiday issue to follow the December issue, by The great music of 1968

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Sennheiser evolution wireless G4, Orange OB1-300, Ibanez SRSC805, TAMA Superstar Hyper-Drive Duo 5-piece Shell Pack,
Meinl Cymbals Byzance Cymbals, Fender Santa Ana, Walrus Audio Deep Six, Peavey Invective.412 Extension Cabinet and Invective.120 Tube Head,
Moog Subsequent 37 CV, Fender Eric Johnson Thinline Stratocaster


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Vol. 29 No. 8 August 2018


Michael Molenda,
EDITOR Chris Jisi,
E. E. Bradman, Jonathan Herrera
CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Ed Friedland, John Goldsby



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C ommunity


The Other Monk



it’s the 65th Anniversary of The Art Farmer Septet [1953, Prestige]. Recorded at New Jersey’s Van Gelder Studios, it
was trumpeter Farmer’s debut disc, featuring arrangements by Quincy Jones (on piano), with trombonist Jimmy

Cleveland, saxophonist Clifford Solomon, and drummer Sonny Johnson among the septet. It is also considered quite
possibly the earliest recording of the electric bass, as the first four tracks feature Monk Montgomery anchoring the
unit on his ’51 Fender Precision, which he plucked with his thumb. As someone who has discussed the electric bass in
jazz with such key figures as Steve Swallow, Bob Cranshaw, Anthony Jackson, and John Patitucci—and who bought
one of Montgomery’s early-’70s solo sides as a kid—I had to hit YouTube (yup, it’s on there) to have a listen. What
a revelation! While he doesn’t solo here, Monk does everything else. “Mau Mau,” Jones’ modal Latin tune, finds
Quincy playing a son clave, while Montgomery provides two big-toned tumbaos. “Work of Art” has Monk doubling
part of the swung melody with trombone, using expressive scoops and bebop phrasing, before walking behind the
soloists. He then starts “Up in Quincy’s Room” with a funk/Latin figure, as the track coyly pivots between straight
and swung feels. Finally, the uptempo 12-bar Bb blues “The Little Bandmaster” is a walking tour de force, as MM
captures the punch and depth of a ’50s upright down low, and the clarity of a bass guitar (or a contemporary upright
recording) up high—listen as he walks on the G and D strings at the 20th and 21st frets! Thanks, Kim, for the heads-
up, and thanks to Mr. Montgomery for boldly opening a door that so many greats would eventually go through.



playing for over 40 years, and these are his basses
(L–R): Sire Marcus Miller V7, Roscoe 6-string,
two Sadowsky Vintage 4-string J-basses, and
fretless Douglas 6-string. His amp collection
includes two SWR Goliath Junior III cabs, two
Eden D112XST 1x12 cabs, an Eden D410XLT
4x10, three Eden D212XLT 2x12 cabs, and
four Aguilar GS 112 NT 1x12 cabs. He uses
two Eden World Tour 800 heads and an Eden
WTPRE World Tour Pro Bass preamp for it
all. — LOGAN RI V E R A

Got a rig you think we’d dig? Send a photo and

description to

10 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

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Ted Gould III, a.k.a. Blyss

Home bases San Francisco Bay Area and New Orleans
Occupation Musician, educator, and licensed drone pilot specializing in aerial video
Join D’Addario’s
and photography; board member of Bay Area arts and advocacy collective
Players’ Circle for
Smalltown Society
exclusive rewards,
Gigs Zigaboo Modeliste (the Meters), Jody Watley, CitizenFive, Marina Crouse/Garth previews of new
Webber Band, plus tons of church, theater, and whoever else calls gear, invites to
Basses Marco TFL Relic, Mike Lull M5V, American Fender Precision special events, and
chances to win
Rig Aguilar DB 751 and AG 700 heads, two GS 112 1x12 cabs
select prizes. Earn
Strings, etc. Dunlop Super Brights, MXR pedals (Compressor, Octave, Envelope Filter, bonus points by
Fuzz, Phase 90) sharing, posting,
Heroes & inspiration Prince and damn near every bass player from his camp, and spreading the
word! playerscircle.
particularly BrownMark, André Cymone, Rhonda Smith, Levi Seacer Jr., and St. Paul
Peterson, as well as Larry Graham and George Porter Jr. 
Contact,,; IG @sonofabass

How did you come to play bass? What lessons have you learned along the way? What are your musical goals?

I grew up in New Orleans, walking distance from Congo Listen. I’m working on my first project in many years,
Square. My cousin’s husband had a Gibson EB-3 that I which sounds a lot like a New Orleans native
would borrow and take to school when he was at work. heavily influenced by Minneapolis funk and
In high school, I played “bass horn” (tuba). I didn’t get Southern rock. My goal as a bandleader and
serious until I was in my early 30s, when I decided to go sideman is to be a part of telling good stories
back to school and earn a performance degree playing through music that makes people feel something.
classical double bass.


Do you use effects? Or are pedalboards only for guitarists?

I’m in a three-piece band playing original music. Besides its traditional Every time I try to use some effect (in a band context, obviously), I
role, we use effects on the bass to provide different and interesting come to the conclusion that a good bass, a good amp, and hands are
textures and color to our songs. There’s no reason to limit the role of everything I need. — F E RNANDO YO KOTA
our instrument in the name of tradition if you’re not playing traditional music.
—DWAYN E TA KEDA The bass is supposed to sound like a bass. I would never use pedals.

I find that for 99 percent of what I do, all I need is my bass, a cord,
and an amp. If you can’t make a song groove without effects, then
become a guitar player! —ANTONIO GANDÍ A I use a volume pedal, a tuner, and a compressor. I’ve spent a ton of
money buying and selling effects over the years and really don’t need
I play bass. I amplify. I have settings on my bass and settings on my much else but the basics. Although, after seeing Victor Wooten jam
amp. I use my fingers to get different sounds. I don’t buy my sound in with his looping pedal, here I go again! — J I M C H LU P
a pedal. —JOEL KOBELIN
I don’t use that crap on my bass. It’s all between my fingers, my bass,
When I hear a sound I want to create, if a pedal is needed to create and my amp. —ARI E L L E E L E ON
that sound, great. But the sound I’m already hearing comes first, not
the pedal. Whatever it takes to create that sound, that’s what I’ll use.
—PAUL GA LDI It depends. Sometimes you need the whole art set, and sometimes
you just need the pencil. — J U ST I N E LLI S
In over 30 years of playing, I’ve never found a need to put anything
between the output of my bass and the input of my amp, other than
a cord. —MEL DUGAS I’m too lazy to tinker with pedals. I just wanna have fun playing bass!

I use whatever I need. Purists tend to be an annoyance, but they have

a right to their opinion. Most nights, it’s just bass and amp, but other
bands require more options. —MARK STEARS / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8 11

bas0818_community_kc3_f.indd 11 6/6/18 2:47 PM



Robert Hurst
Pocketful Of Jam

MULTI-GENRE AND MULTI-SITUATIONAL BASSIST I mostly played a fretless 4-string; for some tunes I played
Robert Hurst has been part of three innovative jazz groups. melodies and chords. I also play the fretted Abe Rivera bass,
From anchoring the mighty Tony Williams band, to his all-star the one I used on The Tonight Show. But there aren’t any bass
showing with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis’ celebrated mid- overdubs on the record. There are some fixes; on one tune, I
1980s ensemble, to the muscular and joyous music of tenor didn’t like the bass sound, so I recorded it again. When I’m
saxophonist Branford Marsalis’ early quintet, Robert Leslie playing melody, there isn’t another bass [under it]. Each track
Hurst III has been a first-call magic man for over 30 years. has a single bass.
In that time, Hurst has lent his supple technique and organic You spent your formative years in Detroit, working with
tone to the music of Paul McCartney, Diana Krall, Beyoncé, members of the Funk Brothers, who recorded many Motown
Willie Nelson, Barbra Streisand, Woody Shaw, Geri Allen, Diane classics. What was your takeaway from that period?
Reeves, Lou Rawls, Norah Jones, and many more. Through the I played with [organist] Earl Van Dyke a lot, and drum-
years Hurst has also found time to document his own musi- mers Pistol Allen and Uriel Jones, who are in the Standing in
cal journey, recording the popular and critically hailed Robert the Shadows of Motown documentary. Even when playing a jazz
Hurst Presents: Robert Hurst [1992, Columbia], One for Namesake standard, they’d always have a hook in what they played. They
[1993, Sony], Unrehurst, Vols. 1 and 2 [2002/2010, Bebob], Bob treated it like a rhythm-section part, like a roadmap. Many
Ya Head [2010, Bebob], and Bob: A Palindrome [2013, Bebob]. guys who play straight-ahead [now] are improvising all the
Currently teaching at the University of Michigan’s School time. They’re not thinking holistically about the form of the
of Music, Hurst’s latest endeavor is the Afro Cuban-meets- entire piece. With Earl or the other guys, we’d play the vamp
Brazilian blowout Black Current Jam [2017, Dot Time]. Look for the soloist, and then a walking bass for another part. If
for upcoming Hurst music with GBD (Golden Brown Delicious I wasn’t doing that, they would call me out—especially Earl
trio) and a Geri Allen trio album with drummer/composer Van Dyke: “Hurst, what are you doing? That’s not how we do
Karriem Riggins. it. You hear the voices going up—why don’t you go down?”
I was 16. I got used to hearing them go off on me, but it was
What basses did you use on Black Current Jam? It sounds tough love. They didn’t treat me like a kid. A lot of younger
like you used more than one bass per song. musicians are coddled these days, but those Motown guys put
For a lot of the chordal stuff, I played an Abe Rivera 5-string. me in the fire, and I appreciate that now.

12 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

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What did Earl Van Dyke mean about going down students can’t differentiate how to play funk from how to
when the voices go up? play jazz—making that connection with the ride cymbal in
For instance, once, we were playing the second ending the jazz context, and then making the connection with the
of “Green Dolphin Street.” The melody rises in pitch, and I’d bass drum in various forms of soul and pop music. I run
play an ascending bass line. Van Dyke said, “If your walk- the small-group program at U Mich, and I have everyone
ing bass line goes down as the melody goes up, it makes write a blues that they are required to sing in the tradi-
the whole band sound bigger.” It made the music more tional blues style. The students have no idea of what that
dramatic. They taught me how to “ride the bass drum” is. They don’t understand the connection between the
or essentially play the same rhythm the bass drum plays blues and everything else in popular music. We teach a lot
within a groove. Many people can do that on one chord, of privileged white kids who can afford to come to school
but how do you do it throughout a song? James Jamer- here, and that information is not readily available in the
son was brilliant at that. He also played more upright on culture. Because of racism, people don’t get their just due
Motown songs than people realize, like “Jimmy Mack” regarding relevance in all of the music in the world, but
and other early Martha & the Vandellas tunes. Jamerson certainly in the music of America. Americans don’t talk
played really busy, but he still played the bass line. Church about jazz. Go to Germany, and people talk about Mozart
musicians and pop and funk players have that sensibility, and Beethoven. In France they talk about Fauré and Ravel.
but it gets lost in jazz. We’d rather play some hip shit. The Everywhere else they celebrate their own music, but we
Motown guys made me aware of keeping it in the pocket. don’t celebrate our own music in America.
Paul McCartney took a lot from Jamerson. The students don’t know Howlin’ Wolf or Son House?
I asked him about that when I recorded his album No. They think it’s some old black man stuff. They
Kisses on the Bottom. He said he never met Jamerson, but think it’s not relevant anymore, when the blues is com-
he learned his bass lines and was a big fan of how his bass pletely relevant. People don’t understand the connection
sat in the tracks on Motown stuff. I think that influenced between Kendrick Lamar and the blues. They don’t under-
how the Beatles mixed their later records, like Revolver. stand that the blues is the basis for everything.
Paul wanted to get that vibe, even though his tone is a little What sessions stand out from your career?
different. He loved Jamerson. I could see in his face that he Barbra Streisand was hilarious. She was really knowl-
was still bugged that he hadn’t been able to see him live. edgeable. We were doing a song at 73 bpm, and she asked
Did McCartney have ideas for the bass on Kisses on if we could do another take at 72. That day, I left home i INFO
the Bottom? at 5:30 AM and got to L.A. at 11 and recorded with Stre-
He did, actually. That was quite helpful. I was playing isand. I had a few hours to kill, so I went to the Biggie Upright bass 1890s Joseph
kind of passively, and Paul was in the booth. I was playing Smalls movie at the Magic Johnson Theater in Crenshaw Bohmann u acoustic
in two for one song, and he wanted me to walk, so he would Mall, the hub of black culture in L.A. and everyone talk- Pickup David Gage Realist
look at me and start pantomiming upright bass playing. ing to the screen. Then I came home the same day. I did a Copperhead
In his process for recording standards, he started channel- Charles Lloyd session with Eric Harland and Geri Allen, Strings (upright) 5-string
ing Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, singing in their and then a Beyoncé session for the Super Bowl, also on standard Evah Pirazzi,
voice. We were paint-by-the-numbers, but he wanted it to the same day. That was really cool. 4-string standard Evah Pi-
be like jazz. He was finding his footing. We were on pins What do you practice? razzi, 4-string Evah Pirazzi
and needles, but he is super easy to work with. I practice intonation, a lot of stuff with the bow. The strings w/C extension
There’s no walking bass on your latest album. bow is the truthteller, the lie detector. On an acoustic bass Electric basses 1974 Fend-

It’s just the way the music came out. A lot of the if you pluck a string, it just dissipates; it dies. When you er Precision Bass, fretless
grooves were derived from playing with our Cuban per- play with a bow, it’s a long note, and you get a chance to Ken Bebensee 6-string
cussionist, Pepe Espinoza. “Bella Bunda,” “Keepin It Rio,” really feel the instrument vibrate. You can feel the intona- ABG, ’80s Schechter P-
and “Coneys and Vernors” are from the first time I went tion and feel where the next note is; you can hold the note style, Abe Rivera 5-string
to Brazil with Wynton. I bought all these Carnival records. and hear and feel the timbre. I’ll practice bebop tunes with Strings (electric) DR
We do something on the new album I call “Detroit clave,” the bow, and then on electric I’ll set up a drum-machine Strings Handmade Coated
which is our interpretation of Afro-Caribbean music from groove or play with drummers. At this point in my career, Extra Life Black Beauties
Trinidad and Tobago with a calypso feeling, and also from I try to multitask when I practice. I practice my compo- Amps (upright) Gallien-
Cuba, Africa, and Brazil. sitional skills to ensure that I’m playing in a composi- Krueger MB112; (electric)
Anything surprise you when teaching jazz to young tional manner, as well as groove stuff as well as technical Euphonic Audio White
bass players? things. It can seem random, and sometimes it is, but it’s Face iAMP (250-watt
Since hip-hop is a dominant musical force, a lot of working for me. BP Model C/L 110) / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8 13

bas0818_bassnotes_kc3_f.indd 13 6/6/18 8:09 AM



Sam Kiszka Chivalry Ain’t Dead




WHEN AMERICAN ROCK BAND GRETA VAN FLEET HIT THE I’m a thousand times better than I was last year, because we have been
scene a little over a year ago, its ’70s-style rock was a godsend for many. The playing live so much. With the new record, I’ve really been focused on mel-

eight-song double-EP From the Fires eschews modern production wizardry in odies—songs like “Ramble On” [Led Zeppelin II]. People sing that bass line.
favor of an “under-produced,” throwback sound that relies mostly on musi- That’s how you know it’s a fantastic bass line.
cianship and songcraft. Comparisons to Led Zeppelin have been rampant ever John Paul Jones is kind of like the rock & roll James Jamerson.
since the 2017 debut of “Highway Tune,” but this band of teenagers promises Yeah, you can totally hear Jamerson-like modes and feels in “Ramble On.”
to be more than a derivation of their most obvious influence. What are you using to track bass on the new album?
Hailing from Frankenmuth, Michigan, Greta Van Fleet recently wrapped A good number of instruments. My one and only bass is a Seafoam
recording its first full-length release. At age 19, Sam Kiszka is one of the band’s Green Fender Precision Bass with Jazz Bass neck; it’s a ’50s reissue made
three brothers, including singer Josh and guitarist Jake (along with drummer in the ’80s. That bass sounds fantastic, and it’s the most comfortable bass
Danny Wagner). They recently returned home from their first European tour I’ve ever played. I also used a ’72 Fender Telecaster Bass for a few songs,
and turned in a blistering set at Coachella in Indio, California. and a ’65 Precision owned by our producer, Al Sutton, as well as a ’69 Preci-
sion. There are flatwounds on all of them except the ’69. That’s just in case I
What’s it been like to become so famous in such a short time? need a roundwound sound, but I do prefer flats. That’s another area where
What’s happened to us is not common at all, especially in the music indus- Jamerson influenced me—I like the mellower tone of the flats. It makes
try. It’s amazing that so many people can jump onboard with what we’re doing. me do things that are counterintuitive to the sound that I want, like crank-
It’s great to be able to make music that’s fueling a new movement, and it’s ing my tone all the way up.
cool to be the band that’s the catalyst for it. What about your signal chain?
Is it weird to have such big expectations at such a young age? My main sound is the Acme Motown DI tube interface, which Al Sutton
We went from a one-family house in the middle of nowhere, to never being makes. It’s fantastic; it puts the sound of the bass right in the spot where
home and living in tour buses, Airbnbs, hotels, and studios. There’s no time you want it. It sits back enough, but you can hear all the intricacies of the
to be at home, ever. There’s so much to do. There just aren’t enough hours in tone. We run that into a silver 1964 Fender 50-watt Bassman for a little more
the day. It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun. growl. You don’t have to crank it at all.
You’ve now played mostly original music your entire career. Who are Are the Led Zeppelin comparisons intimidating?
your influences? Not really. I mean, it’s not like they aren’t the greatest rock & roll
I listened to all the Motown music, like Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops—it’s band ever [laughs]. It’s a huge compliment. I think the new record will
music that moves you and makes you feel good. When I picked up bass, the pick up where we left off and show the many sides that Greta Van Fleet
first line I wanted to learn was “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” I thought has in terms of soundscapes. And I think it’ll take our concept up a few
that riff was so cool. I probably actually learned the Creedence Clearwater notches. We’re also trying to keep live takes. We really value the natural
Revival version first, but I kept learning these Motown bass lines, and I real- feel of how we play live.
ized it was all James Jamerson. I was blown away. I got into him heavily. People seem fixated on your age, but the Beatles, Black Sabbath, and Led
Anyone else leap out at you? Zeppelin were relatively young when they made game-changing records.
I listened to Joe Cocker, Sam & Dave, the Beatles, Cream. Those crazy The young factor is a novelty. It’s not what we focus on. It’s great that
Jack Bruce leads really taught me how to play bass. John Entwistle, too. Lis- people think we have a mature sound.
tening to people who turn the bass into more of a lead instrument, and who There seems to be something chivalrous about your music.
make bass interesting, is what appealed to me. Just playing the root note Chivalry. I like that. These days, there isn’t a lot of rock that gets stuck in
and following the chord progression is boring, and it’s kind of ineffective for your head. The expression of rock & roll lately is people being sad or angry.
a four-piece. For the sound that we have, [playing melodically] increases the Why can’t we be happy about rock? Think about the late ’60s—Jimi Hendrix
amount of energy, it increases how interesting the music is to listen to, and and Crosby, Stills & Nash. We can have a positive outlook on this, can’t we?
it ultimately makes the music feel better. People need to start looking at the good, because we need that a lot more
Has touring impacted your playing in a positive way? now than ever. BP

14 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

bas0818_bassnotes_kc3_f.indd 14 6/6/18 8:09 AM


LISTEN Greta Van Fleet, From the

Fires EP [2017, Republic]

Basses Early-’80s Fender

Precision Bass with Jazz
Bass neck, 2017 stock
Fender American Stan-
dard Jazz Bass

Rig Fender Super

Bassman 300 Pro head,
Ampeg SVT-810E cabinet
Strings D’Addario flat-
wound (.050–.105)
Other Acme Motown

Check out the official


video for Greta Van Fleet’s

“Highway Tune.” / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8 15

bas0818_bassnotes_kc3_f.indd 15 6/6/18 8:10 AM




Will Turpin Will Turpin, Serengeti Driv-

ers [2018, Gooey Music],

Collective Soul’s Late Bloomer Goes Solo The Lighthouse EP [2011,

Gooey Music]

Basses Ernie Ball Music

Man Bongo HH basses
(4- and 5-string), Ernie
WILL TURPIN ADMITS THAT HE’S PROBABLY chops when he joined Collective Soul. He grew up in a Ball Music Man StingRay
not the best guy to offer advice to young bassists. In fact, musical family: His father, Bill Turpin, played bass in basses (4- and 5-string),
he didn’t even pick up the bass until he was 22, when he the jazzgrass-fusion band Saturday Session before co- Fender Precision Basses

joined a gang of his friends in the band Collective Soul— founding Atlanta’s Real 2 Reel Studios in 1976, and Will (1963 and 1965)
which, within a year, would sign a major record deal and started on the piano at age eight. Switching to drums in Amps Ampeg SVT-CL
go multi-platinum with its debut release, Hints Allega- his teens, he went on to study percussion at both Florida 300-watt head, Ampeg
tions and Things Left Unsaid. “My story is not typical by and Georgia State Universities. “I had my music theory SVT-810E Classic Series
any stretch of the imagination,” he laughs. “I don’t think thing down when I got in the group,” he explains. “I just cabinet
I can draw up any kind of road map for people to follow.” had to apply everything I knew to the bass. If I didn’t Strings Ernie Ball (.045–
Not to suggest that Turpin was devoid of instrumental have a keen sense of rhythm and orchestration behind .100, .125)

16 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

bas0818_bassnotes_kc3_f.indd 16 6/6/18 8:10 AM


Lakland is a registered trademark of Lakland Guitars, LLC

bas544348_0616_lakland.indd 1 4/9/18 11:28 AM


me, I don’t think I would have gotten that far.” there are other times when the whole thing comes to me—the
In 2011, Turpin released a five-song solo EP called The Light- hook, the chord progressions, the verses, and choruses. If I’m

house and formed a side band, Will & the Way, to back him up for not in the studio, I’ll grab my iPhone and record what I’ve got.
live performances. Now he’s releasing his first full-length disc, Do you write mostly on guitar or piano?
Serengeti Drivers, which he recorded at his dad’s studio. While I’d say it’s 80 percent piano, because that was my first instru-
Turpin did most of the heavy lifting (he sings lead vocals and ment. Going back to my thought process on the bass, I’m big into

plays bass, keys, and guitar), he’s joined by members of the Way, orchestration. Out of high school and all the way through college,
along with Collective Soul drummers past and present. “I never I was writing charts for the piano, and even drum lines. So when
have to look too far to pull in the best players around,” he says. I play bass, even when I’m playing bass in my head, I’m seeing a

“I’m always surrounded by amazing musicians.” score or a piano keyboard; I’m not seeing a fretboard.
The record is a first-listen gem, filled with breezy, country- Sometimes I’ll come up with a song on the bass. It’s just not
laced rockers (“Demons”), pop dreamscapes (“All On You”), big- the standard way for me. There have been times with Collective

hearted ballads (“Make It Home”), and even a splash of gritty funk Soul when I’ll start jamming on a riff and a song will develop.
(“Belong”). While the album’s spirit is carefree, the recording pro- Sometimes Shane [Evans, drummer] and I would be grooving on
cess was anything but bliss: Just as he was about to start tracking, something, and Ed [Roland, singer/guitarist/keyboardist] would
Turpin’s wife, Donna, was diagnosed with breast cancer. “Music walk in and go, “Keep doing that. That sounds killer.” “Heavy”
was definitely my therapy during her treatments,” he says. “For- was one, for sure. That started with me and Shane, and Ed kind
tunately, she’s cancer-free now and has just one more surgery, of wrote a song around it.
so all’s good. The advances in medicine are amazing. If this hap- Does your playing change depending on the drummer?
pened 20 years ago, things could have turned out very differently.” I’ve never really analyzed that. Again, I’m just looking at what’s
right for the song. I mean, there’s a communication that changes
We’ve established that you’re not a typical bass player. Do you slightly based on who I’m working with, but it’s kind of unspoken.
have a particular approach to the instrument? I don’t think about who’s leading; it just happens.
My philosophy is, it’s all about the song. Some guys have a Your bass playing on your solo album is fairly straightfor-
set style and approach, but I don’t. I look at a song’s overall vibe, ward, but you called on Mark Wilson to bust out propulsive
and then I work with the drummer on enhancing that mood. I stuff on “Belong.”
definitely try to incorporate as much melody into my playing as I don’t mind handing the bass over to somebody who’s better
a song allows, but again, it’s to enhance the song. I’m not trying than me, and [the Way bassist] Mark is that guy. He played on
to be the star of the show. three tracks. I’ve known him for a long time, and he’s a virtuoso
What kind of bass did you start out on? on pretty much all instruments, but he crushes it on the bass. He’s
A Fender Precision. My father played a P-Bass and a Jazz Bass, like Tony Levin—he’s that good. “Belong” is a lot of people’s favor-
so I went for the P-Bass. I didn’t want to start out with something ite. It started out with Mark and the drummer, Scott Davidson,
crazy. I bought another one when we got signed, and then I got during rehearsals. They stumbled upon that groove, and it was a
a Gibson Les Paul Bass. lightning-bolt moment. I sat down with the B3 organ thing and
When you joined the band, did you give yourself a crash just held a chord. I said, “Follow me, guys,” and I felt the whole
course on the bass? verse flowing into the chorus. It was amazing.
Kind of. Harmonically speaking, I knew what I was doing from How do you record the bass in the studio?
my training. Technique-wise, I would watch videos and learn stuff. I like to have multiple signals. I have a clean DI signal that
I would listen to records and play along, and I’d watch AC/DC allows for manipulation and different things in the mix, and then
videos. Cliff Williams’ sound was something I was looking for, so usually we do another signal that’s effected. I do a signal with a
I watched him and picked things up. Geddy Lee SansAmp so I can put a little compression on there,
You alternate between playing with a pick and using your get some low-end or midrange sound going. Then I do a signal
fingers. through a couple of pedals and an amp. I mix all of those, and
I switch back and forth. It depends on how I hear the song and that’s the final product.
the dynamics I’m looking for. Sometimes you want to be softer Is there something you want to learn on the bass that you
and fuller; other times, you want a hard attack. I change it up. just can’t play right now?
Do you have a formal approach to songwriting? I’d like to get better at slapping. I’m okay at it because I’m funky
Not really—songs just sort of happen. I play around on the rhythmically, but I don’t practice a lot. I wish I could. Every now
guitar and the piano, and sometimes the bass, and whenever some- and then, I tell myself, “Dude, over the next three months, focus
thing that feels like a song comes to me, I go, “Uh-oh … I’d better on some really cool slap technique,” but I never find time to do
hit the record button now.” Sometimes it’s just a little line, but it. One day I will. BP

18 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

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BP_FP.indd 1 6/7/18 11:22 AM


Beneath The Bassline


IMAGINE GETTING TO SIT DOWN WITH OVER 30 OF YOUR Jaco and his impact (with Cottle breaking down “Continuum”).
bass heroes, as well as key instrument and amp builders, to chat about the Among the best-edited moments are when various players discuss slap-
art and craft of the bass. That’s the essence of the enlightening 90-minute ping, and we arrive at Larry Graham talking about how he founded the tech-

film Beneath the Bassline by iBass magazine editor Nick Wells. nique. Or Christian McBride detailing his favorite James Brown
As he does with iBass [], the U.K.-based Wells period, with a segue to his hero, Bootsy Collins. And it’s great
turns the camera onto his subjects, revealing much more than to have Lee Sklar’s “producer switch” story documented. There

their words—a bit like the difference between seeing their bass are two through-lines for the film: The first is rising English
lines notated versus hearing the inflections in those parts. The bass star Stefan Redtenbacher’s potent score, with his horn-
film features a spectrum of greats, from John Patitucci, Marcus infused Funkestra. (The movie’s soundtrack album also includes

Miller, Pino Palladino, Stanley Clarke, Victor Wooten, Oteil an original by Michael Manring, who appears in the film.) The
Burbridge, and Rocco Prestia to Robert Trujillo, Duff McKagan, second is Will Lee. Seen throughout, jamming with Richard
Billy Sheehan, Tim Commerford, and Gail Anne Dorsey. Also Bona, Lee offers some of the meatiest insight, including the
in the mix are young power-pluckers like Thundercat, Michael impact of the upright on the bass guitar, what it was like to
League, Felix Pastorius, and Adam Getgood, British greats Mark play with James Brown on the Letterman show, what makes
King, Paul Turner, and Laurence Cottle, and gear mavens such as Ringo Starr a great drummer, Roger Sadowsky’s gift for adapt-
Roger Sadowsky, Vinny Fodera, and Aguilar’s Dave Boonshoft. ing customer requests into his basses, turning a playing mis-
Collectively, they cover such topics as how they got into bass, key influ- take into something cool, and why we should enjoy every gig. The sharing of
ences, bass line creation, tone and the specifics of their individual basses, knowledge with a smile is indeed the bottom line in this well-made celebra-
finding your own sound and voice, career highpoints, and thoughts on tion of the bass. — C H RI S J I S I

20 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

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BP_FP.indd 1 6/7/18 11:22 AM


Stanley Clarke BP RECOMMENDS

STANLEY CLARKE BAND Gradually Going Tornado. Berlin did a funkified update, “Joe Frazier
THE MESSAGE [Mack Avenue] (Round 2),” on his 1986 album Pump It! Now, from Nashville,
Largely written in Paris during a tour delay comes a 30th anniversary package centered around a new ver-
due to terrorism in Tunisia, The Message sion that features Steve Vai and Tom Hemby on guitars, David
finds Stanley Clarke and his quartet (key- Sancious on keys, and drummer Keith Carlock. Dialed back to
boardists Cameron Graves and B eka about 98 bpm and riding Carlock’s kinetic sizzle, the track’s angu-
Gochiashvili, as well as drummer Mike Mitchell) mining all cor- lar intro finds Berlin drawing themes from the melody. He then
ners of the musical spectrum to deliver positive messages with a states the melody with fresh, hammered twists and restates it
powerful jazz-funk underpinning. Clarke remembers George Duke over Sancious’ reharmed piano changes. Following a brooding
and other late friends on the opener “And Ya Know We’re Missing transition, Vai emerges for a shredding solo. A Zawinul-esque,
You,” a slapped bass and beatbox duet with Doug E. Fresh. “After keyboard-led section leads to Berlin’s probing, overdriven solo,
the Cosmic Rain” (adapted from a piece Clarke wrote for Return navigating “Giant Steps”-inspired changes. Finally, the Sancious-
To Forever) and “Combat Continuum” are full-on fusion epics that led coda shifts to classical harmony terrain, with Berlin boogying
also mine Clarke’s soundtrack writing. Bass-wise, Clarke shows to the finish line. Other package options include a remastered
his grand mastery of both acoustic and electric with a passionate, “Round 2,” a vinyl “Round 3,” an autographed score, and mixes
bowed version of “Bach Cello Suite No. 1” and the solo bass guitar minus drums, bass, or guitar. In all, Berlin manages to show
chordal gem “The Message.” Best of all are kitchen-sink tracks like both his strengths and his growth, as we await his Jack Bruce
“Lost in a World,” a vocal-duet love song wrapped around some tribute album. — C H RI S J I S I
serious band reaching; the sonically stretched, Spanish-tinged
instrumental “Enzo’s Theme”; the sassy, Cameo-meets-Marcus GHOST-NOTE
Miller “To Be Alive,” with Fresh rapping about Stanley; and espe- SWAGISM [RSVP]
cially the angular, highly original “The Rugged Truth.” Some 45 Led by drum and percussion masters Nate
years after his solo debut, is there a bassist with a wider perspec- Werth and Robert “Sput” Searight of Snarky
tive than Clarke? —CHRIS J I S I Puppy, Ghost-Note’s sophomore album fea-
tures the bass prowess of Anthony “AJ” Brown
JEFF BERLIN and MonoNeon. The low-end duo dominates the record with heavy
JOE FRAZIER—ROUND 3 [JBMG] grooves and insanely funky riffs, stealing the spotlight from the
Regarded as one of the big three bass anthems large, talented cast around them. MonoNeon’s virtuosity on “Milk-
alongside Stanley Clarke’s “School Days” and shake” and “Dry Rub” are enough to make you hit rewind to catch
Jaco’s “Teen Town,” Jeff Berlin’s “Joe Frazier” the fast, intricate licks buried within his pocket. These two drum-
first appeared on Bill Bruford’s 1980 album mers sure know how to pick bass players. —J O N D ’AU R I A

22 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

bas0818_bassnotes_kc3_f.indd 22 6/6/18 8:15 AM

[] CASINO [Domino]
Decadence continues the lineage of instrumen- The Arctic Monkeys’ sixth studio album aban-
tal jazz-fusion first forged by Pierre Moerlen’s dons the gritty guitar-driven sound that made
Gong in the 1970s. It features Hansford Rowe, them famous in favor of spaced-out, mellow
a Gong alum, leading this new ensemble through a masterclass in lounge vibes. This ultimately frees up Nick O’Malley and frontman
spontaneity and subtlety, where downtempo explorations of pro- Alex Turner to put bass at the forefront of the piano-led songs,
gressive jazz reign supreme. Instigated by Rowe’s lyrical bass osti- which is especially groovy on “One Point Perspective,” “American
natos, songs like “Zephyr,” the title track, and “The Importance Sports,” and the album’s title track. O’Malley’s staccato, muted
of Common Things” are mellow and spacious—but the music’s pick playing throughout adds a chic sexiness that completes the
deceptively simple nature is merely a guise for manipulating and band’s new sonic identity. — J ON D’AU RI A
developing deep, heavy musical concepts. —FREDDY V I L L ANO
[] Ritchie Blackmore decided to revisit his rock
Listening to Sonny Rollins records as a teen- & roll roots a couple of years ago by way of
ager growing up in Israel may have inspired reinventing Rainbow with a new cast of play-
upright ace Adi Meyerson’s love affair with ers. Memories in Rock II is a live set from Glasgow, Scotland, cov-
jazz, but her debut album proves that she’s come fully into her ering a staggering back-catalog of epic hits, neoclassical metal,
own. Meyerson’s compositions pay homage to her adopted home- and choice Deep Purple cuts. Bob Nouveau is clearly a musician’s
town, New York, as she displays the knowledge she has gained musician, ably responding to Blackmore’s every improvisational
from studying under greats like Reggie Workman and Ron Carter. move with subtle counterpoint, inventive rhythmic patterns, and
“TNT” and “A D Train” especially highlight her equal-parts talent nuanced note choices. His playing is lively and spontaneous, per-
as a writer and a player. —JON D’AURIA haps the ultimate spirit in which to pay homage to past iterations
and performances. — F RE DDY V I L L ANO
On the European/American power-metal SINGLES [UMG Recordings]
band’s latest, Sean Tibbetts once again Abby Travis has built a long and successful
delivers the perfect foil to Kamelot’s heavily career using her precision playing and mas-
orchestrated guitars, keys, and vocal melo- sive tone to back powerhouses like the Go-
dies. His snarling, growling, pick-wielded tone locks in tightly with Go’s, Cher, the Bengals, and Beck. Her new
double-kick-driven songs and adds most of the grit to an other- project, a drums–bass duo with Gene Trautman, now showcases
wise melodious, symphonic sound. There’s even some djent to her talents in the biggest and boldest way possible. On these
Tibbetts’ rhythmic patterns, giving the tunes a tenacious back- four tracks, Travis dishes seriously filthy frequencies and inter-
bone. Check out tracks like “MindFall Remedy,” “Kevlar Skin,” and esting lines that use both her vast pedalboard and her eccen-
“Static” for a good dose of what Tibbetts can do with four strings tric playing, making us want much more from this exciting duo.
and a pick. —F REDDY VILLANO — J ON D’AU RI A BP / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8 23

bas0818_bassnotes_kc3_f.indd 23 6/6/18 8:15 AM



95000 Oceans 11 Reverb
It’s got all the basics—including hall, plate,
and spring reverbs—but the Oceans 11’s
functional and inspiring surprises include
dynamic and modulated reverbs that add
interactive movement, as well as shimmer
and polyphonic reverbs that make it easy
to create ambient soundscapes. 
Street $150

Golem Overdrive
Ready for an overdrive pedal that’ll do
your bidding? Control the Golem’s power

(volume), rage (gain), form (tone), and

shape (mids) with the main knobs, and let
tremble and quake open the door to silicon,
germanium, or boost effects. mass delivers
bass/mid boost, and evolve is a tone-
shaping drive.
Street $170

AMG-2 Bass Case
The ENKI AMG-2 Bass Case—a tough,
lightweight, roto-molded polyethylene shell
with a luxurious EVA foam insert—makes
it possible to imagine trusting your bass to
airline baggage handlers.
Street $350

24 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

bas0818_newgear_kc2_f.indd 24 6/6/18 8:08 AM

Rock-A-Billy & Ultra Blacks
Double Bass Strings
Innovation’s strings use a synthetic core
and nylon cover to get tone that sounds
like a gut string—but without the issues
(or cost). Available in medium- and low-
tension sets, Innovation strings are made
for rockabilly/psychobilly slap players and
bluegrass/Americana players looking for
warm thump.
Street $190

LP-1 & VIP LP-3 4-strings
This vintage-inspired, New York-based
builder offers two new basses: the LP-1,
which sports a flatsawn maple neck and
fingerboard and DiMarzio Area P pickup,
and the VIP LP-3, with its roasted bird’s-eye
maple neck, Macassar ebony fingerboard,
3-way pickup selector, 3-way mini toggle,
and Delano Quad Coil (neck) and Delano
Dual Coil (bridge) pickups.
Street VIP LP-3, $1,800; LP-1, $1,000

Teleport Audio Interface
If you’ve ever wished you could use
your favorite software plugin in your live
rig, check out the Teleport, a universal-
connection device housed in a small
pedal enclosure. The Teleport allows you
to access plugins from your DAW in real
time and add them to your signal chain,
converting analog audio signals to digital.
Works with iOS, Android, Mac, and PC
without any specific drivers or software
Street $140
Contact / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8 25

bas0818_newgear_kc2_f.indd 25 6/6/18 8:08 AM


Prestia performs at the

Tower of Power 50th
Anniversary concert at
Oakland’s Fox Theater
June 1, 2018.

26 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

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Graham’s thumb slaps, Francis “Rocco” Prestia’s groove-defining use of muted 16th-notes has become an
instantly recognizable fingerboard innovation that has remained a soul-soothing constant in a fast-changing
world. Forged in the iconic R&B horn band Tower Of Power, the magic and mystery of Prestia’s playing—
and how he’s able to fit so many notes seamlessly into the pocket—remains, 50 years on. Some have tried to
explain the propulsive, percussive mastery found in such Tower bass anthems as “What Is Hip?,” “You Got
to Funkifize,” “Soul Vaccination,” “Squib Cakes,” and “Credit.” TOP saxophonist/bandleader Emilio Castillo
surmised, “Rocco is an original. He doesn’t have the technical knowledge of a lot of other great bass players,
but that’s what makes his playing so special. Everything comes from the heart, the gut. A lot of bassists try

PHOTOGRAPHS BY LISA JOHNSON / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8 27

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to emulate his style using their heads, and that’s why none of ballads. It’s a tone-and-taste trademark that once led then-TOP
them have come close to his feel.” Will Lee feels that “constant” drummer Herman Matthews to tell BP, “Without Rocco’s motion
is a better adjective for Rocco than “busy,” which implies a lot of on the bass, we would be just another horn band.”
moving lines across the neck. He points to Prestia often playing in The seeds of that signature style can be traced to Northern
one root-5th-octave position and developing patterns within that California, where Rocco was born in Sonoma, on March 7, 1951.
shape. Jeff Berlin cites Prestia’s mastery of space within a chain of After suffering the loss of his dad just five years later, his mother
16th-notes, mostly created by applying muted or ghosted notes. re-married, moving him, his sister, and his two brothers to Fre-
For Rocco, it’s a simpler answer: “The key to playing that much mont, California, where they were first exposed to rock & roll. For
without getting in the way is to lay it in the groove.” his Christmas present at age ten, Rocco’s mom got him a Sears
Alas, Prestia’s milestone year hasn’t been as in the pocket. Silvertone guitar and amp, and lessons. He recalls, “I liked rock,
After sudden health bouts led him to be hospitalized while on but what I didn’t like was having to practice guitar, because I just
the road and at home late last year, Tower Of Power has officially wasn’t any good at it—it never clicked for me.” Nonetheless, he
decided to move on, replacing him with Sheila E bassist and TOP stuck with it long enough to successfully audition—“because I had
sub Marc van Wangeningen. However, Prestia does appear on good hair”—for classmate Emilio Castillo’s band at age 14. Castil-
all but one track of TOP’s latest, Soul Side of Town, applying his lo’s dad hired local jazz guitarist Terry Saunders to teach the band
unique approach to straight and swung R&B romps and chivalrous members their instruments, leading Saunders to switch Prestia to

28 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

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a white P-Bass copy. “All I knew about the bass was [TOP bandleader and saxophonist Emilio Castillo] as
that it was bigger than me!” Before long, Emilio got another key to developing my style. He had a great
into R&B via an East Bay band called the Spiders. ear for bass, and he would constantly say, “Try this,”
He added four more horns to the group, and they or, “Do this,” and I would say, “Huh?” And he’d say,
transitioned from covering Stax/Volt and Motown “It’s what you do naturally,” and he’d help polish up
at dances to writing and performing originals at the part. I remember struggling with “Young Man”
clubs as Tower Of Power. After seeing a success- because it’s in 6/8 and I wasn’t feeling it. Dave said,
ful performance at the Fillmore Auditorium in San “Just play in four and it will come out right,” and that
Francisco, legendary music promoter Billy Graham song established my approach to ballads.
signed TOP to his management company and pre- Then came 1973’s Tower Of Power, which included
pared the band for its first recording, 1970’s East the bass anthem “What Is Hip?,” the shuffle “This
Bay Grease. We chose that as a starting point for a Time It’s Real,” and “Soul Vaccination,” with its
funky trip down memory lane with a reflective Rocco. turned-around feel.
“Hip” was Dave’s concept of having one note
Let’s talk about the bassists who influenced you droning throughout the song, inspired by the
leading up to TOP’s first album. Ben E. King tune “Way Down Low.” Everyone was
Once the band got hip to soul music—James skeptical: “Really?” Little did we know. I also thought
Brown, Motown, Stax/Volt, Muscle Shoals—that’s the bass was too hot in the mix—wrong again! “Real”
when it all started for us. I didn’t know their names was the first time I had to play a walking bass line,
at the time, but I was influenced by players like and it scared the crap out of me. I’m not a tradition-
James Jamerson, Duck Dunn, Chuck Rainey, Jerry ally trained player; I didn’t know how to walk like
Jemmott, David Hood, and Willie Weeks. Locally, the jazz cats, who would hit all the right notes. So
I got to meet Larry Graham, whose percussive that was a good period of growth. As for “Soul Vac,”
approach had an impact on me. And I met and Dave was doing that from day one, moving every-
became friends with Paul Jackson, whose creativ- thing over by an eighth-note or 16th-note. Some-
ity certainly rubbed off on me. times it flows naturally and it’s fun, and other times
You credit TOP drummer Dave Garibaldi with you’re holding on for dear life. Dave would tell me,
helping to shape your style. “Just count”—he’d even play the passage while count-
In a major way. When Dave came onboard, three ing it—and I’d still struggle. I’ve never been good at
months before we cut the album, he had all kinds of counting; if I don’t feel it, I have to rely on a horn or
ideas he wanted to try, and we clicked right away. vocal cue to know when to come in. The best exam-
Looking back at it now, we complemented each other ple of that is “Oakland Stroke,” where I wait for the
because he was a busy player, and I had a simpler, hi-hat swishes to know when to come in.
more laid-back approach. We met in the middle, and That song was from 1974’s Back to Oakland,
it was magical. I think I was moving toward busier which also had long jam tracks like the Chester
lines naturally, but he opened me up rhythmically. Thompson instrumental “Squib Cakes.” Were those
I started adding notes and accents, and playing fun or more of a challenge to get through?
with a sense of moving the music along. In addi- We loved them because we all had a chance to be
tion, I realized that playing more percussively, with free, with few or no boundaries beyond the head. The
staccato notes, seemed to lock better with Dave’s solo sections could go anywhere, especially when you
drums, so dead notes and ghosted notes became a have the pleasure of playing behind Chester’s organ
big part of my style. or Lenny Pickett’s sax. Those guys can carry you
Bump City from 1972 had such TOP classics as along when you’re running out of ideas and inspire
“You Got to Funkifize,” “Down to the Nightclub,” you to play new things that take the energy way up.
and “You’re Still a Young Man.” After four more albums, and with addictions
Grease was energetic but raw; we were kids raging in the band, in 1977 you were made an
amazed to be in a recording studio for the first time. example of and fired. What do you remember about
We recorded Bump City in Memphis, with [Booker the seven-year period until your return in 1984?
T. & the MG’s guitarist] Steve Cropper producing, First I did blues gigs in the Bay Area with Frankie
and he reeled us in and tightened everything up. I Lee and Bobby Murray, and I got to jam with Albert
was playing whatever I felt, but I have to credit Mimi King and Albert Collins. It was great because it opened / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8 29
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me up to a whole other area of music, and it was the first time I of the songs on those albums stayed in the book and are fun to
grasped that I had a style and didn’t have to play blues in the tradi- play. I got my first co-writing credit on “Believe It.” During that
tional way—I could play me inside the blues. From there, through high-profile period—we played the talk show circuit—I remember
a drummer friend, Kevin Cloud, I moved to Las Vegas to play with thinking, When is it gonna be enough? When are we going to finally
Lola Falana. The conductor, Frank Fiore, was a TOP fan, he knew I cash in? We had fame, but where the heck is our fortune? That has
didn’t read music, and he was nice enough to teach me the parts. always baffled us. Early on, we saw horn bands like Chicago and
Then in 1984 Mimi called out of the blue asking me to rejoin the Blood, Sweat & Tears have radio hits—and, granted, they wrote
band. I told him I’d think about it, and when I hung up, Kevin and more commercial songs. But record companies always had prob-
my girlfriend, who were in the room, said, “Are you nuts? Call him lems marketing us, largely because we didn’t look like we sounded.
back!” I was used to having my own room by then, so when I called You also put out your solo album and instructional videos
back to accept, that was my one stipulation [laughs]. in the ’90s.
I moved to L.A. on Mimi’s advice, but then the horn section I pursued a solo deal and I met someone from a Japanese label
left to go on the road with Huey Lewis for a few years, leaving the who made it happen. They didn’t have the budget to properly sup-
rhythm section to all but starve between occasional TOP gigs. So port it, but Everybody on the Bus was a blast to do, and it came out
we formed our own band called Flex, and we started a regular great. The two instructional videos [Fingerstyle Funk, 1993, Video
Monday-night jam at a string of clubs. When the horns finally Progressions, and Live at Bass Day, 1998, Hudson Music] were
returned and focused on the band, they fired the rhythm sec- eye-opening for me. They made me zone in on what I do and how
tion except for me! I do it, and they came at a time when I was becoming aware of
That led to the 1987 album Power, with the monster shuf- the bass community, meeting other top players, and figuring out
fle “Credit,” which also became TOP’s first music video. What’s where and how I fit into it all.
the story behind your bass line, with its cool double-time feel? The 2000s included TOP’s Oakland Zone and the band’s cover
The band had recorded that tune, and when I rejoined, Mimi record Great American Soulbook, plus your health issues.
wanted me to play on it. He told me to make it a funk shuffle, and Zone was one of the most creative albums we’ve done, even
that’s what I came up with. I’ve had bassists play it to me their though I was ill when we made it. I was less excited about Soulbook.
way, and I say, “Man, you’re making it way too complicated.” Then We tried to make a more commercial album, and it took us out of
I show them, and they go, Ahhh. The way I play, a lot of things are our comfort zone, and I think fans can feel that. We saw every-
implied because there are so many ghosted and muted notes—so one else having success doing covers, but ultimately we weren’t
your hear stuff that isn’t really there. true to ourselves; I felt doing a few covers was okay, but not the
The Epic Records era, which began with 1990’s Monster on a whole album. As for my health problems, I had my first surgery in
Leash and yielded four albums, seemed like a productive period. 2002, to replace my liver. Then in 2006, I had open heart surgery.
We got a new manager named Michelle Zarin, and she was In 2007, I moved to Las Vegas and I fell ill again in 2012, leading
instrumental in making a lot happen for us; you need that in the to my kidney transplant in 2014. Through all of that, from the first
music business. There was some new blood in the band, and many surgery forward, the outpouring of love and support from friends
and fans has been beyond belief. I’m very blessed.
Let’s talk about your basses through the years.
i INFO After starting on a P-Bass copy, I had a Vox Cougar and a Gibson
EB-O before returning to play Fender Precisions through the ’70s
Rocco Prestia, Everybody on the Bus [1999, Lightyear]; and ’80s—one of them given to me by Paul Jackson, which I still
Tower Of Power, Soul Side of Town [2018, Mack Ave.], have. Around 1990 I got an endorsement from Fernandes. They
Great American Soulbook [2009, TOP], Oakland Zone were very nice instruments, but they promised me a signature

[2003, TOP], Rhythm & Business [1997, Epic], Souled model and after six years it hadn’t happened, so I moved on to
Out [1995, Epic], Monster on a Leash [1990, Epic], Conklin. Those were great, but Bill Conklin had tried the signa-
Power [1987, Cypress], Urban Renewal [1975, Warner ture-instrument route and didn’t want to go back there, so I began
Bros.], Back to Oakland [1974, Warner Bros.], Tower Of Power [1973, Warner looking again. Around 2013, [War and Rex Brown bassist] Pancho
Bros.], Bump City [1972, Warner Bros.], East Bay Grease [1970, Warner Bros.] Tomaselli told me about ESP. I spoke to [Senior Vice President]
Jeff Moore, and he had me check out the LTD Series, to which he
Basses ESP LTD RB-1004 let me add my tweaks. That included having a P/J pickup config-
Strings MJC Ironworks NPS Nickel-Plated Steel Medium Light (.045–.105) uration with the [P] pickup in the reverse position, rounding the

Rig TC Electronic Staccato’51 head with one body edges, and having a C-shaped neck profile. The instrument
RS410 cabinet and two RS212 cabinets sounds and feels terrific, it has Seymour Duncan pickups, and I
Other GoGo Tuner play with both pickups all the way up. I also remained close with
Mike Conley from using Dean Markley strings, and I’ve followed

30 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

bass0818_coverstory_prestia_kc4_f.indd 30 6/6/18 2:59 PM

A LegendarY BASS
for a
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Rocco Prestia of Tower of Power needs no introduction.
Influencing an entire generation of bass players on the
technique and vibe of fingerstyle funk, Rocco is one of the few
musicians who literally changed the way people approach an
instrument. When it was time for Rocco to step up to a bass with
the sound and feel that had no compromises to his limitless talent,
he didn’t just make a signature bass for himself; he made a series
of basses for everyone. The LTD RB Series stands for “Rocco’s Bass”,
and it has everything needed for bass lines that make people sit up
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Ebony fingerboard with curved end Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound P4/J4 pickups

BP_FP.indd 1 6/7/18 11:22 AM


plucking hand. For ghosted notes, I place my finger over the note but
I don’t press down on the fret, so that finger is muting the string.
You’ve played a lot of the songs in the TOP catalog for over
40 years.
Yup, and there are tunes I love and ones I’m less wild about.
The key for me is to take a fresh approach to each bass line every
night. I challenge myself to stay in the moment and get the part
right, section by section, as opposed to going on automatic pilot
and having my mind wander. I think about the audience, who may
be seeing us for the first time, as an incentive to stay sharp. If I
can maintain that focus, then inevitably as I’m going through the
tune, I’ll find something new to play every time.
Which answers the question of how your style has changed.
I would say it has evolved more than changed. The constants are
the 16th-note-based feel and the muted and ghosted notes; that
will remain until I put the bass down. But I listen to the early stuff
and sometimes I’m amazed; how the heck did I do that? Because
today I’m playing those tunes differently. My hands won’t let me
execute like that anymore, yet at the same time, I often don’t
want to play like that.
Do you think that the band gradually developed a sense of,
Let’s leave this space for the bass?
Probably so, in parts of the tunes—or subconsciously they
knew I would fill those spaces.The main songwriters have always
written with the personnel in mind. They know our creativity
and our limitations.
When you hear local bands as you travel through towns, what
are your bass pet peeves?
Crappy tone, for one; that drives me up the wall. What the heck
are you listening to that you think a bass should sound that thin? I
want my bass to sound as fat and punchy as possible. Overplaying
is another. If you’re overplaying, you’re under-listening. Being too

loud is the other. Bass can be very overbearing. People are always
asking me to turn up. I try to play to fit within the volume of the
band, not stand above it.
Let’s talk about the new album, Soul Side of Town. When and
him to his new company, MJC Ironworks. We’re about to launch how did you track your parts?
my signature string set. The rhythm section went in for a few weeks, in early 2014. We
Can you walk us through your technique? actually have another album in the can, as well, which includes
I generally play by jumping to different positions with my left two of my tunes. We mostly cut to scratch vocals, and there were
hand, instead of spreading my fingers to play across a wide span. some tracks where Dave’s drums were already down. I played my
My hand lies flat over the fingerboard, in a three-fret space, and ESP bass, recorded direct and through my miked TC Electronic rig.
I mainly use my index and middle fingers to fret the notes, and Some of the songs feature very specific arrangements for
my 3rd finger and pinkie to dampen the strings—although I occa- the rhythm section, which somewhat takes away from the clas-
sionally fret with those fingers, as well. With my right hand, I use sic TOP feel.
alternating index and middle fingers to pluck the strings, about That was my challenge on about half the songs. There were a
midway between the neck and the bridge, anchoring my thumb lot of little stops and rhythmic breaks, lines to play, and changes
on the pickup or the E string. I combine dead notes and ghosted to make, so it wasn’t the usual, free-flowing grooving. As a result, I
notes, but not in a planned way; they come out naturally. Dead probably played less on songs like “Hangin’ With My Baby,” “When
notes involve fretting the note and then muting it with my third Love Takes Control,” and “Selah,” and I just focused on making
finger and pinkie, as well as how I attack and stop the note in my the parts. Continued

32 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

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Lilo De Lima is the bassist for award-winning
band, Kapena, taking home four Nā Hōkū
Hanohano awards this year—including
Album of the Year and Group of the Year!
Lilo is also an accomplished songwriter. You
can likely catch her playing her California
Series Koa 5-String Fretted U•Bass at one of
her regular gigs on Oahu.


KB-LiloDeLima-BassPlayerMagAd-201805-D1-lc.indd 1 5/24/18 12:20 AM

BP_FP.indd 1 6/7/18 11:23

On the other hand, you stretch in the rideout of “On Soul Side of Town,” I’m still taken aback by my notoriety in an era
you drive the B section of “Do You Like That” with motion, and on “Stop” you when you can go into a corner bar and find a great
prove what you don’t play is as important as what you do play. bassist. I don’t read, I don’t count, my ear is limited
Rideouts are always the time to have fun, and I’m also conscious of devel- to hearing things in 3rds and 5ths and not much
oping my part where possible, inspired by Jamerson. On “Do You Like That,” it more, and I’m not a soloist—not that I aspire to
was a matter of contrasting the two sections, which has always been a part of be. I just play the way I play, by instinct. But people
my concept. And “Stop” is proof once again that space is as important as the seem to like it. That’s remarkable to me.
notes. I always try to find my spots to put my stamp on a part, whether it’s from Has anything caught your ears in recent years?
a demo bass line or my original line. That’s the fun and the challenge of play- Bruno Mars—I dig him and his band. You can
ing bass within a rhythm section: You have to find where you can be creative hear that he has borrowed from many of the old-
within your part. When everyone feeds off each other and finds their sweet school greats: James Brown, TOP, Earth, Wind &
spots, that’s when the magic happens. Fire. He’s been able to corral that with his own thing
Looking back over your 50-year career, do you have regrets? and make it work on a massive level. I’ve seen some
Sure—I should have involved myself more in the business and leadership side interesting bassists on YouTube. My brother sent
of TOP, instead of just going along for the ride. I might have gotten into writing me a clip of a young lady playing “What Is Hip?,”
sooner and helped with decisions on some of the directions we went in. I also and she nails it. In another clip, a bassist breaks
should have learned to read music. Not being able to read handcuffed me dras- down “Hip,” and I was like, Holy cow—I’d never
tically, because there’s so much work that can be had with that one skill. I gave explain it that way, but it was very thorough and
up on it early; I just didn’t have the patience required, and then my career got pretty cool.
underway. I’ll follow chord and even notated charts as best I can, but best for me What are your feelings about TOP deciding to
is when someone calls out the changes. And of course I wish I had curbed my par- move forward without you?
tying habits and substance consumption, for which I paid the price health-wise. It’s sad and disappointing. I feel like I’m being put
You’ve always had a hard time accepting your legacy as a bass innovator. out to pasture. My health was an issue, but after my

bass0818_coverstory_prestia_kc4_f.indd 34 6/6/18 3:05 PM

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last hospital stay in November for a recurring urinary-tract infection, I decided What projects do you have coming up?
to see a homeopathic doctor. The first thing she prescribed worked, and I’ve had With the help of my friends at matchingdonors
no problems since. I’m feeling great. But they made their decision, and it is what .com, we’re going to be doing some fundraising to
it is. It’s time for me to move on. finance a solo album. I pretty much have all of the
material, which I co-wrote with [former TOP guitar-
ist] Jeff Tamalier. In addition, I’m putting together
i INFO a band here in Las Vegas. I’m an original member of
TOP, so we’ll start playing that music and integrate
Tower Of Power’s Statement On Rocco originals as we go. We’ll be more rhythm-section-
Asked for an update on Rocco Prestia’s status in Tower Of Power, bandleader Emilio Castillo sent focused, and we’ll have a percussionist. I’m also going
BP the following statement: “While touring in Europe in October of 2017, Rocco was hospital- to accept private students here in Vegas and maybe
ized in Hengelo, Netherlands. We were forced to play a few gigs with no bass at all before finally get set up to do it online. Fans can follow my activi-
getting Dewayne Pate flown out from the States to fill in. This had happened several times over ties via my website [].
the last few years, and we were forced to make a difficult decision. Our plan at that time was to How do you reflect on your half-century of playing?
use Rocco only when the air travel was an hour or less, and we also decided that if he was hospi- I’m proud of the body of work with TOP; I think
talized again, we would pull him off the road permanently. Soon after, he was hospitalized in Las there’s a lot of great music. Audiences seem to enjoy
Vegas, and so we made the decision to use Marc van Wangeningen from that point on. Marc had it and how it makes them feel, which is all the more
filled in countless times for Rocco and, as is prone to happen, we all got very comfortable with reaffirming. I’ve been blessed to have spent my career
him playing with us. Rocco played some songs with us at our 50th Anniversary Celebration in in a band that plays original music, giving me the
June, but we now think of Marc as our bass player.” opportunity to create my own parts. Out of that
Rocco will remain on the band payroll permanently. came a style that has apparently influenced other
bass players. You can’t ask for more than that, and
I’m not done yet. BP



36 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

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Earlier this year, the Dixie Dregs completed their highly successful Dawn of the Dregs tour, a return of the original lineup from their 1977
recording debut, Free Fall. The quintet, which covered a wide range of Dregs music during their two-month run, features guitarist Steve
Morse, drummer Rod Morgenstern, violinist Allen Sloan, keyboardist Steve Davidowski, and the inimitable, incandescent Andy West.
Knowing that fretless 6-string maven and Berklee Bass Department Chair Steve Bailey is a huge fan of West and the band, we asked him to
check in with Andy for an inside look at the tour and the pioneering Southern fusion band’s initial launch. Take it away, Steve!

I REMEMBER EXACTLY THREE “FIRST LISTENS” IN What material are you playing, and what are your per-
my early days—and when I say remember, I mean that I can still sonal faves?
recall the exact location, situation, and even the smell of that We started with the idea of looking at what we could play, favor-
moment. One of those three, which included Led Zeppelin and ing songs from the early years, since that was the band that would
Chick Corea, was during the early summer of 1977, just before I be touring. But we all had our favorites, and listening to the first
graduated from high school; I was preparing to go on the road with six albums, we ended up choosing songs from each one. I think we
a show band, to see if the music business was right for me. A dear all fell in love again with the songs. I really enjoy “The Odyssey,” for
friend, mentor, and drummer, Curtis Richardson, said, “Check this its raw power and emotional content, “Divided We Stand,” for its
out,” and he gave me a cassette. I put it on in my car as I was leav- super-cool melodic interplay—which includes hidden bass melo-
ing his house, and this driving bass line jumped out and crushed dies and chords—and “Twiggs Approved,” for the groove and the
me. The tape was not labeled, as he had copied it from vinyl. I lis- guitar solos I got to listen to while I thumped along underneath.
tened to it repeatedly on my drive home and immediately called How did you re-learn your parts?
him and said, “Who is that?” What was that?” His calm and cool I remembered a significant number of them, but many of the
response, as was usual for him, was, “That is the Dixie Dregs, and songs were a complete redo in terms of learning. Back when we
the song is ‘Cruise Control.’” Instant Dregs fan! first learned the songs, we didn’t use written music or recordings;
So, exactly to the day 41 years after the release of Free Fall, I instead we would all get in a room together, and Steve would show
am particularly honored to be speaking with that bassist, from us the song section by section, part by part. It was a completely
that day, who has been an inspiration for decades. old-school rock approach, and it took days and sometimes weeks
to get a song down. But by the time we could play it, we could
How did the Dregs get back together for this run? really play it. So this time around, I decided to do the same thing,
It was basically a convergence of factors, such as professional but on my own, of course. I went section by section and I picked
timing, sentiment, and the inevitable march of time and its con- out each note, and I played each part until I memorized that sec-
sequences. All of that coordinated in a “maybe it would be a good tion, and then I went on to the next one.
time to do this now” moment. We knew the opportunity to have Being able to play music slowly without changing pitch has
the original lineup back together was something that shouldn’t be changed everything. I used Logic, Reaper, and a program Steve
passed by. There was certainly a lot of detail, conversation, plan- told me about called Transcribe!, which I think has the best slow-
ning, and detective work that went into it, but that is the essence. ing algorithm of all of the programs I heard. Sometimes I needed

PHOTOGRAPH BY FRED KUHLMAN / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8 39

bas0818_west_kc4_f.indd 39 6/6/18 8:00 AM


Steve’s compositions are consistently and almost classically

i INFO tonal, and he doesn’t use a lot of super-thick jazz or dissonant
voicings or melodies. That’s not to say it is limiting; he manages
Andy West, Rama 1 [2002, Magna Carta]; Dixie Dregs, California to explore that realm and always comes out with some combi-
Screamin’ [2000, Zebra], Industry Standard [1981, Wounded nation of power, beauty, and I think even happiness, or some

Bird], Night of the Living Dregs [1979, Capricorn], What If other poignant emotional content. Rhythmically, we learned a
[Capricorn, 1978], Free Fall [1977, Capricorn] lot from the fusion bands of the era, but we were really coming
from a rock orientation, so that was always present. As for the
ethic, it was built upon hard work and practice, as well as listen-
Basses 2017 Geoff Gould GGi6 6-string, fretless Gould 5-string, early-2000s ing to the audience. We experimented a lot, but we never forced
Gould 6-string, custom headless Gould 5-string people to listen to weird or outside stuff, just because we might
Strings La Bella Super Polished Pure Nickel (.029, .043, .063, .083, .103, .125) have liked it. It was always about delivering something we liked

Picks Dunlop Gator-Grip .71mm, Dunlop Big Stubby Nylon 2.0mm and that most of the people who showed up wanted.
Strap KLIQ AirCell AGS3 How does the University of Miami play into Dregs history?
Live signal chain Line 6 Helix guitar processor, Eventide H9 Harmonizer, Tech That’s where Rod and Allen met Steve, and then the four of
21 Q\Strip EQ/preamp, custom Electro-Voice-powered cabinets: two ETX15-SP us played together from that point. So it was huge. You’re aware
powered subwoofers and two ETX12-P powered loudspeakers that Jaco was around there then, and we knew him, Pat Metheny,
Hiram Bullock, and many other great players. It was eye-opening.
Check in with West’s and the Dixie Dregs’ websites, watch a show from the new What was your concept for the role of the bass in the Dregs,

tour, and listen to West’s tune “Qubit.” and how did you come up with your bass lines?
I always thought my role was simply to perform the songs.
This involved a very rhythmic and busy picking style, and using
melody from the compositions. It wasn’t really a “normal” role in
the sense of exactly applying things you could get from listening
to listen super slowly to hear what was happening. You can set to the bass greats of the day. These were architected songs to a
up all of these programs to loop and replay, or control them with large degree, and whenever I created a line, it fit in that architec-
footswitches, which greatly speeds up the process. ture. Steve and I met in high school and started playing in bands
Have you changed any of the bass lines? together when we were teenagers. I kept up as best I could, but
Very little. A lot of the lines in Steve’s music are either counter- we both liked a lot of doubling for the power. When he started
point or necessary supporting figures, so they’re pretty set. Plus, writing and showing me songs, I think I naturally played much
I really like them! I did make some changes to the fingerings and more with a pick just trying to mimic him, and as he evolved his
picking, though. I started playing a 6-string bass in the mid ’80s, own picking style, I absorbed a lot of it. I think my ability to play
after the Dregs, and it is my preferred instrument. That enabled in that way subtly influenced the composition, because he knew
me to modify some stuff for ease of playing. I’ve also changed some I could play a certain kind of thing in a certain way.
of my picking techniques, which I was able to apply. Who got better grades in high school, you or Steve? 
Have any of the songs evolved live? Steve, definitely. Both of his parents were teachers, I believe,
Most of the songs are like the recorded versions, as that seemed or at least had advanced degrees, and he is one of the most bril-
more the point of bringing all of these songs back to the fore. If liant men I have ever met.
we had been playing consistently for the past 40 years, naturally How have you grown as a player since the Dregs’ glory days?
there would have been a lot of evolution. But as I said, we all love I’ve written a lot of music since then. I enjoy composing and
these songs, and in addition it was a practical matter, having to collaborating with other musicians in writing. I’m also always
relearn two hours of music. working on technique and expanding my harmonic knowledge,
Why do you set up on stage-right? Is it because of Rod’s left– which is still pretty basic. I have a lot of fun randomly exploring
handed hi-hat on that side? music and continuing to learn and find people to play with. This
In this case, it was the same way we set up back in the day. I tour had really amped up my practice schedule, and consequently,
think it evolved because the violin and guitar were the focal cen- my technique. We’ll have to see if that sticks around!
ters of the band, and having the drums in the middle made sense, Do you ever play with your fingers, and do you ever play fretless?
and it was the rock thing to do. And standing next to Steve helped Yes to both. I love the feel of fingers—and for fretless it is fairly
make sure I was actually playing with him. essential. But clearly, I love the pick, and live, it enables the lis-
What are the stylistic ingredients and the work ethic that teners to actually hear an articulated note coming from the bass
made up the original Dregs sound? easier than with fingers. That isn’t always true, of course, but for

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bas000001_0116.indd 1 11/20/15 7:15 PM

a thickly orchestrated-sounding band like ours, it definitely works. With regard patterns. I was concerned with pure technique,
to fretless, yes, I love playing it; I have a 6- and a 5-string. Several Dregs songs speed, and being able to play the Dregs songs with
feature fretless, although I didn’t use one on the tour. fluency and articulation. Those still matter to me,
What was your main bass on the tour? but I’m attempting to fill in lots of gaps. I’m trying
My Geoff Gould GGi6; I had it made for the tour because I wanted the nar- to learn more about chords and harmony and be
rower spacing and 34" scale. It has two EMG soapbar pickups. The bridge pickup fluent and confident across the fingerboard. Obvi-
is larger, Music Man-style, but with a split-coil option. The controls are sepa- ously, YouTube and the bass and music-theory con-
rate volume; one includes the split switch, stacked treble and bass boost/cut, tent online is super helpful in finding useful areas
and a stacked midrange control for frequency and boost/cut. I’ve played Geoff’s to explore and work on.
basses since the mid ’80s. Are there any plans for a new Dregs record or
How has your gear and tone concept changed over the years? more touring?
I think it’s basically the same, but better! I started years ago with a simple “Never say never” is the trope, but there are no
bass preamp, a crossover, power amp, and bass bins. I also used some midrange plans. This was a special and unique circumstance.
cabinets with 2x12 speakers. I’ve always loved a full-range sound, and I never What about your current and future plans and
got into the sound of a particular amp, preferring instead to pull sound out of goals outside of the Dregs?
the bass itself and/or effects. I still approach it the same way, but the current I have several projects lined up, and I’ll always be
technology makes it a lot easier. doing eclectic bits of recording, and hopefully play-
You and Victor Wooten both owned and played a Univox ’Lectra “Beatle ing live. I have a ton of unfinished music I’m trying
bass”—coincidence? to get classified and into a master plan to see if any
Definitely a coincidence! Ha! I wouldn’t have thought he was even old enough of it should emerge as a real effort. I feel incredi-
to have gotten into one of those. I loved that bass, though. bly lucky to have so many friends who are fabulous
What is your practice routine, and how does it differ from your early days? musicians that I can associate and work with. And,
Still very basic stuff, but my routine used to be mainly doing scales and playing again at this level has really inspired me. BP

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2018 JLSC 1AD BP OL.indd 1 2/5/18 8:55

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Acoustic Bass

B Y R O D C . T AY L O R |


in the early ’90s, primarily so I could jam unplugged with
my guitar-playing buddies in college. It was one of those
inexpensive Applause basses, and at the time, I hardly
gave much thought to using it in an amplified setting,
even though it had a pickup. Basically, I tried it through
my amp once and thought it didn’t sound nearly as good
as my Fender. Over the last few decades, however, ABGs
have improved greatly in their design and electronics,
and I’ve long since adjusted my thoughts on plugging
them in. Like regular acoustic/electric guitars, the tone
of modern ABGs varies with the combination of shape,
wood, and electronics. As such, ABGs offer players a
variety of “plugged in” tonal options that substantially
differ from their solidbody siblings, but they still provide
every bit of bottom end a player wants on the bandstand.
British luthier Michael Gillett beautifully taps into that
sonic space with his Contour acoustic bass guitar series.
While this review focuses on the fretless Gillett Slim-
line Contour 4-string, I spent over a month playing the
full-body fretted and fretless 5-strings as well, and much
of what I have to say applies to all three models, although
the larger instruments have two pickups instead of one,
and a blend control. Ultimately, I preferred the Slimline 4
(for reasons I will get to), but each of these instruments
was a pleasure to play.
The first thing you’ll notice about this bass is the
craftsmanship. I had barely pulled the bass out of the
carton before snapping a picture and sending it to my
father-in-law, who’s a master woodworker, with the
caption, “Check this out!” Every aspect of this instru-
ment suggests that it’s built by a thoughtful craftsman

44 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

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who considers himself both an engineer and an the very back of the bass, which can be conve-
artist. While I reviewed the basses, I always kept niently accessed via a recessed cavity at the rear
one on prominent display in my living room, and
everyone who visited commented on its beauty
via a magnetic cover.
The controls on the Slimline are simple: tone
and admired its shape and unique design fea- and volume. Playing through my standard gigging
Contour Acoustic Bass Guitars
tures. I also really dig the “sandwiched” construc- rig, I had to do very little tweaking to get a beauti-
Street Slimline Contour 4-string, $3,900
tion and the contrasting wood choices that mark ful tone that sat somewhere between a solid and (Contour 4-string, $4,200; Contour
the instrument’s contoured sections. hollowbody instrument. To be clear, it does not 5-string, $4,600)

Speaking of the contoured sections, they speak sound like an upright, but that is not what I’m after Pros Superior comfort, no-nonsense
to Michael Gillett’s thoughtfulness; you can defi- with an ABG. It might seem obvious, but when I controls, beautiful aesthetics
nitely tell he is a bass player. My right arm perfectly pick up a handmade acoustic bass guitar, I want to Cons None
fit in the front contour, which allowed easy access hear a tone that makes it clear that you are play- Bottom Line A handbuilt, custom ABG
to all 19 frets on all strings. The back contour tilts ing just that—an acoustic instrument. The Con- that’s expertly designed and a pleasure

the bass up a bit, which is especially welcomed in tour bass knocks it out of the park here. Whether to play.

the full-body models so that you aren’t reaching played acoustically or plugged in, the tone is always
Top Sitka spruce
out too far to get around the instrument. For the earthy and well rounded, the treble clear, but not
Body Canadian maple “sandwich,” with
Slimline, I found that it tilted just a bit more than bright. The Bareknuckle J-style neck-pickup place-
options of American cherry and walnut,
I would like, but that’s a subjective call. Because ment surely plays a big role in that. zebrano, or mahogany
of the contoured sections, this ABG is one of the Handmade instruments are usually expen- Neck Canadian maple
most comfortable I’ve played. sive, and that’s no exception here, although the Scale length 31.5"
After playing all three models for a week, I found prices listed at right include a conversion from Fingerboard Indian rosewood
myself gravitating toward the Slimline 4, primar- British pounds to dollars, as well as shipping and Nut width 41mm (1.6")

ily because it’s lighter, its body is 3" narrower, and customs-clearance costs. On the U.S. side of the Pickups Bareknuckle J-Bass, Schatten
it just felt more like “home” to me. Acoustically, pond, you can try out a Gillett bass via Chicago’s Transducer

the bass sounds softer than some I’ve played, but Luthiers Access Group (, Controls Blending system by Custom
Circuits with side-mounted controls
I didn’t mind that at all. You can still hear it well where you can also see more pics and details of
Bridge Tufnol, 19mm spacing
enough when playing alongside an acoustic guitar. each model. If you’re in the U.K., you can demo
Tuners Hipshot Ultralite
Our review basses came with Rotosound Tru Bass one in Michael Gillett’s shop. If you do check them
Finish Oil and wax
black nylon-coated flats, which seem to help with out, I’m positive that you will appreciate the com-
creating a tone that gestures toward the upright. fort and playability of these beautifully designed Made in England
The strings go through the bridge and anchor at instruments. BP Contact / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8 45

bas0818_soundroom_pw4_f.indd 45 6/7/18 9:56 AM


Bassics BPA-1

B Y J O N AT H A N H E R R E R A |

ONE OF THE COOL BYPRODUCTS OF keeps me hungry for less terrifying options
the industry-wide move toward lightweight to take out on gigs. That’s why I was excited
Class D power amps with switchmode power to receive the Bassics BPA-1. Its designer,
supplies (SMPS) is the emergence of powered Malcolm Toft, is one of a handful of true icons
cabinets as a viable alternative to the tradi- in recording engineering. His engineering cred-
tional head-plus-cabinet rig. As high-output its are no joke (you may be familiar with one in
amps get smaller and lighter while running particular, a little number called “Hey Jude” from
cooler, integrating them into a cabinet is easier some English band)—but he’s better known for
than ever before, opening up a new product his contributions to recording technology. As
category that allows for intriguing new signal an engineer at London’s Trident Studios, Toft
chains. Personally, I’ve been using a powered decided to tackle the design and construction
Wayne Jones 2x10 on a lot of recent gigs, and of his own recording console that met all the

among its many charms is the way it opens up studio’s requirements when it moved from 16-
my options for preamps. As a studio owner, to 24-track in the early ’70s. The resulting con- SPECIFICATIONS
I’m blessed to have a few ultra-high-end pre- sole, the Trident A Range, is among the most
amps and channel strips from manufacturers coveted in recording, right up there with leg- BPA-1
like Neve, Millenia, and Tube Tech. Perhaps it’s endary designs from Neve, API, and SSL. Since Street $500
the more critical need for fidelity, or recording those days, Toft has founded a few other compa- Pros Versatile, particularly the EQ; musical

engineers’ deeper (and geekier) knowledge of nies dedicated to his seminal designs, including and organic tone
Cons Pots feel a bit too wiggly; would
circuit design, but top-shelf recording equip- Toft Audio and Ocean Audio. Given his unim-
prefer footswitchable input selectivity
ment is often made with a cost-no-object atten- peachable resumé, I was thrilled to see that his
Bottom line A top-flight floor-mounted
tion to detail and quality. Being able to pair all new venture, Bassics, is entirely dedicated to
preamp from one of the true icons of
this rarefied gear with a hi-fi powered cab is our instrument. We’re lucky! audio gear.
the ultimate in bass luxury.
That said, my studio preamps are expensive. KEEP IT BASIC Preamp topology Solid-state
For example, I love my Tube Tech MEC-1A, but The company’s first product, the BPA-1 reviewed Input impedance Switchable, 500kΩ–2MΩ
at about $5,000 retail, it’s the last thing I can here, is a floor preamp that is usable as the front Inputs Two q" (instrument)
justify taking to a Tuesday-night jam session. end to a power amp in a live rig or as a studio Outputs Pre/post q" and XLR, q" fx send/
Still, my special respect for studio-quality gear Continued on page 65 tuner, q" main output

Tone controls low bass ±15dB @ 45Hz–

250Hz; mid bass ±15dB @ 150Hz–800Hz;
high bass ±15dB @ 500Hz–2kHz
Weight 6.5 lbs

Made in United Kingdom


46 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

bas0818_soundroom_pw4_f.indd 46 6/7/18 9:56 AM

T H I S C A N R E B U I L D A C O M M U N I T Y.

At the D’Addario Foundation, we believe the most effective D’Addario Foundation goes directly towards giving music
instrument for creating lasting, positive change for children education to children. So every dollar you give makes a real
and their communities is music education. That’s why we difference. Learn more at
work with over 200 successful, diverse community-based
programs to help bring music to kids who may never have
access otherwise. And 100% of your donation to the

bas_daddario_foundation_0816.indd 1 6/8/16 3:38 PM




Active Electronics
B Y J O N AT H A N H E R R E R A |

IN MY PREVIOUS COLUMN, I TOOK A DEEP DIVE are, why bother with an active system? Active basses have a
into the elegant utility of passive electronics, describing the few key advantages over their passive brethren. First, almost
circuit in detail and denoting that despite their simplicity, pas- all active basses offer preamplification, conditioning an instru-
sive electronics are capable of a surprisingly broad array of ment’s sound in various ways to make it suitable for the much
great tones. This time, we’re going to stick the battery in and larger amplification occurring in a rig. As a consequence of the
talk about active electronics. typical preamp’s components, active preamps buffer the signal,
As I described last month, “active” and “passive” as applied resulting in a low output impedance. The advantage is two-fold:
to bass electronics refer to the presence (or lack) of an First, a low-impedance signal is much less vulnerable to
external power source. Unlike passive systems, an frequency loss over long cable runs, and second, it
onboard active scheme requires the addition of doesn’t require a high input impedance at the amp
electricity, typically from one or two 9-volt bat- or recording-console input to preserve fidelity.
teries. This means that amplifying devices like Since active preamps have a suite of ampli-
transistors can be incorporated, allowing play- fiers within them, most circuits allow for sub-
ers to boost their instrument’s output beyond stantial gain boosts and flexible EQ. In fact, it
what’s generated by the passive induction of cur- could be argued that the preamp of the aver-
rent in the pickups. Power also makes it possi- age bass head is somewhat redundant with
ble to have frequency-selective volume control, the most flexible of the available active sys-
something we often call equalization or EQ. Bass Player Senior Contrib- tems. Modern onboard systems can include up
The first mass-produced onboard active elec- uting Editor Jonathan to four bands of EQ, sweepable frequency cen-
tronics were found in the Music Man StingRay. Herrera is the magazine’s ters, and an accompanying passive-style tone
Other systems pre-date the StingRay (notably former Editor-in-Chief. An control, giving players the best of all worlds.
Alembic basses), but Music Man was the first accomplished player, The handful of disadvantages of an active
manufacturer to offer a bass with stock active Jonathan is now a full-time preamp include potential for increased noise,
electronics in large-scale production. Since then, musician and producer. His susceptibility to dead batteries, and the poten-
active systems can be found on basses from the latest endeavor is Bay Area tial to introduce distortion as the circuit runs
cheapest on that rack at your local Guitar Center recording studio Airship Labo- out of headroom. That said, most contempo-
to bespoke custom basses costing over $10K. ratories. Catch up with him at rary circuits are relatively immune to these
A reasonable question many players have: and at shortcomings, with even battery life being on
Given how versatile and reliable passive circuits the order of months. BP

48 / j u l y 2 0 1 8

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bas_bp_com_0318.indd 1 1/18/18 12:51 PM



Harvey Citron & Steve Swallow


STEVE SWALLOW, HUMBLE GENIUS AND TRUE BASS Swallow I was only aware of Harvey as part of the Veillette-
iconoclast, is one of the coolest guys I know. And high-end luthier Citron brand in the ‘70s. So, when I reconnected with Harvey I
Harvey Citron of Citron Guitars in Woodstock, New York, feels had a foreknowledge of his work.
exactly the same way. Since 1999, Citron has built Swallow’s instru- Citron I delivered the first bass to Steve in February of ’99.
ments. All told, there are eight in existence and the ninth is on That model, the AE-series, came from dissatisfaction with acous-
order. What’s unique about their relationship is its symbiotic col- tic bass guitars. I tried new things, like using a magnetic pickup
laboration. Theirs is truly a partnership, with each new bass rep- and a piezo transducer. Plus, I really wanted an intonation adjust-
resenting further innovation, manifesting the insight that comes able bridge, but that took awhile.
from two masters considering age old questions of timbre, playabil- Swallow That was something I also pushed hard for.
ity, and tone. I spoke with Citron and Swallow about their almost Citron Thankfully! Just before I hooked up with Steve, I called
20-year relationship. Unfortunately, there isn’t nearly enough [renowned luthier] Rick Turner and said, Rick, I really want to
room here for the whole conversation, but look out online for an have an intonation adjustable bridge. He said, It can’t be done and
unedited transcript—trust me, you’ll want to. no one cares! At first I listened to him, but not completely. I also
talked to Rob Turner at EMG and he said, I can give you what you
Citron We first met when I repaired your Parker, Steve. need for separate EQ on the magnetic and piezo. Steve heard that
Swallow It was destiny. and oved it, but he really needed an intonation adjustable bridge.
Did you two already know each other? Swallow The first bass you made for me did have a magnetic

50 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

bas0818_techbench_kc2_f.indd 50 6/6/18 2:51 PM

pickup, but every instrument since have only had piezo pickups. separately with their own volume. Then I added one to the C string
Everything that was necessary to put the magnetic in the bass had and it had its own volume. At some point I redesigned the bridge
the effect of constricting the vibration of the body. and we ended up with six piezos and three buffers.
Were you looking for an alternative to the Parker? What Swallow That was a golden moment.
sound were you in search of? How are the piezos arranged in the bass?
I was always looking. From the time I began to play electric there Citron There’s a “sub saddle” under the intonation adjustable
were aspects I wasn’t happy with, having had a life as an acoustic saddles. At the leading and trailing edges of the sub saddle there
player. There were elements in the timbre of acoustic that I was are little troughs front and back; the piezos lay in the troughs
yearning for, even though the electric had captured my heart. I like train track. There’s a pair for the E. A pair for A–G and a pair
liked the Parker, but felt I wasn’t pushing forward. Harvey seemed for the C string.
to be pointing in the direction I wanted to go. Swallow Each pair is ganged into a buffer circuit, and I have
How would you character- three trim pots that I can adjust to
ize that direction? make each string equal in volume.
Swallow The sound I want now It was an important moment, but
is one I haven’t yet heard. I feel like you can imagine that it’s difficult to
a train that lays its own tracks. It’s know which of the several changes
an image I got from an Austrian on each instrument had a deci-
writer named Robert Musil who sive effect, because everything is
wrote a book called The Man With- interacting.
out Qualities. The instruments that It’s half science and half
we’ve come up with are showing us serendipity.
what’s possible and what’s next. I’m Swallow And feel. One of the
hoping for the kind of complexity most valuable lessons I’ve learned
and roundness and warmth that is to back off at various points in
an acoustic instrument provides, the process. I just tell Harvey that
but I’m also looking for the sing- he knows what to do as he touches
ing sustain that a solid body instru- the wood. It’s been valuable to this
ment provides. Luckily Harvey is a process for me to learn to shut my
bit of dreamer, too, and he’s unafraid of experimentation and the mouth and go home. The wood will speak to you. The wood is tell-
unknown. He seems willing to try anything, and that encourages ing you to make it a little thinner or thicker. I have to be absent
me to flights of fantasy that I’d always been discouraged to exer- from the process when Harvey is doing that stuff. It has to be
cise before. When I was 20-years-old and trying desperately to between him and the materials. That’s a vital part of how these
learn acoustic I was under the wing of a wonderful piano player, instruments sound. That real-time interaction.
Paul Bley. He said, You get the sound you hear. That’s something And any player that gets intimate with his instrument also
that’s stuck in my head to this very day. There is a sound that I hear become sensitive. In all the acoustic basses I had, the process
that we’re getting closer and closer to, but it defies description. of learning that instrument was about learning what the bass
It falls into the category of those things you know when you see. demanded. You accept that as part of the joy of living with the
How did that first bass differ from the production AE5 instrument. Just as you learn not to speak for the first five minutes
it was based on? your best friend wakes up next to you in the morning [Laughs.].
Citron It had a much narrower neck and 24 frets instead of You have to be very sensitive to what the instrument wants and
22. Also, Steve travels all the time and until recently spent the insists on. I love making that trade off. Trying to see how far I
winter in Tortola, so that first neck went beserk. From that point can get from the Fender Precision. Which is a magnificent kind
forward I’ve used graphite strips in the neck and we haven’t had of Platonic Ideal of an electric bass. It’s remarkable how much
any issues. With subsequent basses we started to screw around Leo Fender got right. In effect what Harvey and I are looking for
with the piezos. At first Steve wanted more E string. is the other end of the spectrum. If the P is one end, where’s the
Swallow And more C. [Swallow plays a 5-string tuned E–C.] other end? Part of the glory of what Harvey has done is that he’s
Citron That was later. First, we went from a single piezo to two extended the other end of the spectrum by a significant amount,
piezos, one for the low E and one for the rest. Each was buffered and it ain’t over yet. Wait until you hear bass nine! BP / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8 51

bas0818_techbench_kc2_f.indd 51 6/6/18 2:51 PM




“Liberty City”
Through The Cycle, Jaco-Style


WHETHER SOLOING, PLAYING IN A RHYTHM SEC- moves down and the melody moves up. Jaco chooses the #11
tion, or composing a standard-in-the-making, Jaco Pastorius on the F7#11 chord and the b13 on E7#9(b13). The Ab7 in bar

always found the best notes—great bass lines, with cool mel- 2 is a passing chord leading to the A9 in bar 3. The melody note
odies, slathered in hip harmonies. Last month, we looked at on the A9 is the 9th, the note B. In bar 4, the note F is the #9 of
songs that have two chords in the harmony. This time, let’s the D7#9 chord. The melody in bar 5 lands on the 13th of the B13
explore a chord progression that winds through a few more chord, the note G#. In bar 6, Jaco continues in the funky vein, using
harmonic back-alleys: Jaco’s brilliantly con- the note D, the b7 of E7#9(#11). The recurring
structed “Liberty City.” rhythmic hook in bar 7 hammers away on the
The defining bass lick in “Liberty City,” as
shown in Ex. 1, bounces up and down on a G7
INFO i note G, which is the b7 of A7. The repeated G then
becomes the sus4 of the D7sus chord.
chord. This is the tune’s get-groovy gravy. The In early recorded versions of “Liberty City,”
John was never
meat-and-potatoes melody comes after the various instruments play the melody: steel
good at the Liberty
bass vamp. Example 2 shows how the melody, drums, harmonica, and horns. You can play
City video game,
chord changes, and bass line flow in a bluesy, but he likes to play
Ex. 2 as a duet with yourself or a friend. Record

funky, and sometimes dissonant counterpoint on the changes of the bass line in a loop, and then record the
through the eight-bar form. the Jaco tune by melody track on top. Be sure to leave open a
The beauty of the composition lies in its the same name. few extra choruses for your solo!
simple chord progression, juxtaposed with altered Check out his video Examples 3 and 4 show solo choruses
chord-tones in the melody. Play the bass line in lesson series based on the harmony of “Liberty City.” If we
Ex. 2 (bottom staff). You serve the tune by hit- The Upright Bass only look at the root movement, we see that
ting the root of every chord in half-notes. The Handbook, at the chords move in a cycle: G, (F), E, (Ab), A, and
“R” under a note indicates that it’s the root of the D, B, E, A, D. The solo line in Ex. 3 hits many
chord. The b7 and the 3rd appear in a couple of of the choice melody notes, like the #11 (the
spots as passing tones to the next root. Listen to note B) on the F7(#11) chord, the b13 (the
• Listen to Jaco
any version of Jaco playing this line, and marvel romp through his
note C) on E7#9(b13), and the 9 (the note B)
at how simple he keeps things. Half-notes and brilliant composi- on A9. Arpeggios flesh out the harmony in
roots, half-notes and roots. tion “Liberty City” a few spots, like on the A9 and B13 chords.
Check out the melody against the bass line, with the Word Of Example 4 brings the solo line into the
and you’ll hear the magic of harmony as it unfolds Mouth Big Band. upper register of the bass. Here the line is also
(Ex. 2, top staff). Basement dwellers: Note the • Don’t give the targeting juicy altered notes from the melody:
treble clef in the melody staff. For aspiring com- piano player an B on the F7(#11) chord, C on the E7#9(b13),

posers, this is a great method for sketching out excuse to fire and B on the A9. Note the double-stops in
you! Learn about
a composition: Compose a melody, and then bar 7, which mirror the rhythmic hook that
find complementary bass notes. Once you have occurs every chorus.
a strong melody and bass line, the harmony— Listen to some of Jaco’s versions of
Mark at talkingbass
the notes in between—will become apparent. The .net will blow your
“Liberty City” to absorb the composition’s
chord tones of the melody are indicated above the mind explaining sound and vibe. Next month, we’ll explore
notes: R, #11, b13, 9, #9, 13, b7, and 11. These altered chords! key parts of the song that we didn’t cover in
colorful upper extensions give the melody a vocal, this Woodshed. In the meantime, pick up your
poignant character. lessons bass—the “Liberty City” chord progression is
In the first two bars of Ex. 2, the bass line a playground for jamming! BP

52 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

bas0818_woodshed_kc3_f.indd 52 6/6/18 7:49 AM

EX. 1

(0) 14 16 14 0 0 16 16 15 16 0 14 16 14 0 0 19 19 18 19
15 15 15 (0) 15 15 14 15 0 0 15 15 15 (0) (0) 15 15 14 15

Swing eighths
= 88 R #11 b13 R 9 #9 #9 13 b7 b7 11

Ab7 D7#9
EX. 2

G F7#11 E7#9(b13) A9 D7#9 B E7#9#11 A9 D7sus4

R R R R R R b7 R 3 R 3 R R

1 2
5 3 2 5 5
3 1 0 4 5 4 5 5

G7sus4 F7#11 E7#9(b13) Ab7 A9 D7#9 B

0 0 0 4 0 5 5 1 5 4 0 4 2 4 2
2 0 3 0 3 3 0 4 1 0 1 4
EX. 3

E7#9#11 A9 D7sus4

1 0
3 2 0 0 2 0 2 0
4 4 3 3 2 2

G7sus4 F7#11 E7#9(b13) Ab7 A9 D7#9 B

0 5 10 16 12 17 13 14 15 16 14 12 8 7 10 11 7 8 11 16 14 13
EX. 4

E7#9#11 A9 D7sus4

10 9 7 9 6 6 5 5 7 5 4 2 0
8 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8 53

bas0818_woodshed_kc3_f.indd 53 6/6/18 7:49 AM



Looking At 1968

AFTER LAST MONTH’S LOOK AT 1967, LET’S JUMP playing of Lenny Brown. Not much information is available on
ahead and examine 1968, the year the assassinations of Martin Brown, who is said to have worked with Mayfield and the Impres-
Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy shocked the world, leaving sions between 1966–68. Sadly, just a few months after “We’re a
an indelible mark on America’s collective consciousness. These Winner” hit #1, Brown and fellow Impressions Billy Griffin (drums)
events gave momentum to the already-expanding civil rights strug- and Joseph Thomas (guitar) were killed in a Georgia car wreck. Lis-
gle, and they inspired James Brown to use his music to address tening to Brown’s adventurous playing, one can only imagine the
current social concerns. “Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud” grooves this 26-year-old firecracker may have gone on to create.
was Brown’s shout-out to the African-American community, and Example 1 emulates the pickup and basic groove of the verse.
its infectious groove put it at the top of the Billboard R&B charts It’s a unique take on what I call the “bom-bom” groove—named
for six weeks. The significance of this song at that point in time because the two eighth-notes on beat one can be sung as “bom-
cannot be overstated: Not only was it a rallying cry for communal bom.” The structure of the two-bar phrase sets up a fairly typical
pride, as a hit record it reached ears of all colors, building a bridge first measure, starting with “bom-bom” on the root (Eb) and antic-
of funk that crosses social boundaries to this day. Perusing the list ipating the 6th on the “and” of beat two, a pattern that echoes
of #1 R&B hits from that year, we see the usual suspects making the Impressions’ 1965 hit “People Get Ready.” Beats three and four
the groove happen—James Jamerson dominated the field, play- are a walkup to the next chord—the Vsus (Bbsus) in bar 2. But
ing on eight #1 hits that year! Other bassists represented include Brown delays the beginning of the lick to the “e” (the 2nd 16th-
Tommy Cogbill and Jerry Jemmott (both with Aretha Franklin), note) of beat three, giving it a jerky but-funky start as he moves
David Hood, Ronnie Baker, and Duck Dunn (who are all featured up chromatically to the Bb. Bar 2 is unusual in that you might
in my book The R&B Masters: The Way They Play, 2005, Backbeat). expect him to leave some space after hitting the peak of the pre-
In the R&B Gold extraction process, I often find a story other vious walkup. He “bom-boms” the root on beat one and immedi-
than the one I planned for. In this case, it was discovering the song ately starts another off-beat walkup back to the I chord starting
“We’re a Winner” by the Impressions, with Curtis on the “e” of beat two. Beat three continues the syn-
Mayfield on lead vocals. Recorded in Chicago and copated rhythm, but the line finally hits the down-
released in 1967, the track hit the #1 slot the week
of March 1, 1968. While James Brown’s “Say It
INFO i beat on beat four for two solid eighths that set up
the repeat of the phrase. While it sounds typical
Loud …” is widely hailed for its theme of empow- of the time period, it is deceptively tricky to nail
Ed Friedland of

erment, “We’re a Winner” arrived earlier, serving this line. Example 2 is similar to what Brown plays
Tucson, Arizona, is
as an unofficial anthem for the civil rights move- currently touring
at the end of the verse when the progression goes
ment. The inspired chorus refrain of “moving on with Grammy to the IV chord. Later in the track, there is a four-
up” predates a certain ’70s sitcom by several years, Award winners the bar instrumental break to the IV chord that is set
and it’s underpinned by the seriously funky bass Mavericks. up with a one-measure rhythmic figure, and while

54 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

bas0818_woodshed_kc3_f.indd 54 6/6/18 7:50 AM

Brown plays some cool stuff (approximated in Ex. 3), to my ear it over into the new year for one week after five weeks on top at
sounds like he got off track in the last bar. Instead of returning the end of ’67. This track is one of James Jamerson’s finest exam-
to the root of the IV chord, he walks up to Eb, which is the root ples of theme and variation, and the syncopated 16th-note style
of the I chord. Luckily, this works anyway, as the note is also the he developed was firmly locked in at this point. The year ended
5th of the IV chord. He saves it with a chromatic walkup to the with Marvin Gaye’s version of “Grapevine” featuring Jamerson
V, squarely landing on the next verse’s downbeat with a hearty again, but with a slower eighth-note groove that has become leg-
“bom-bom” on the root. endary. Gaye’s version hit #1 for the last three weeks of the year
After Lenny Brown’s untimely death, he was replaced in the and carried over into 1969 for another four weeks on top. The
Impressions by Joseph “Lucky” Scott, who later followed Curtis year began and ended with the same song in the #1 chart posi-
Mayfield into his solo career. I briefly mentioned Scott in the tion, performed by two different artists for the same record label,
September ’16 installment of R&B Gold when I highlighted his and using mostly the same players. When you consider the vir-
iconic groove on the title track of Superfly. But back to 1968: The tual ownership Motown had on the 1960s R&B and pop charts,
year started out with Gladys Knight & the Pips’ famous record- a coincidence like this is not so far-fetched—but it does qualify
ing of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” in the # 1 slot, held as a nugget of R&B Gold! BP

= 99
Eb Cm7 Bbsus
EX. 1

8 5 8
8 10 5 6 7 8
6 6 6 6 6 0 1
8 6 1 3 4 4

Eb7 Ab7 Eb7 Ab7

EX. 2

6 6 1 3 4 5 6 6
6 4

Eb Db Ab7

5 6 6 6 6 6 4 3
6 6 4 4 4 4 4 5 6 6 6
EX. 3

6 6 8 4

5 5 6 8
3 3 4 4 5 5 6 6
4 4 4 8 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8 55

bas0818_woodshed_kc3_f.indd 55 6/6/18 7:50 AM


Robert Sledge playing

a Gibson Les Paul Bass

with Ben Folds Five


Ben Folds Five’s “Uncle Walter”

Robert Sledge’s Complete Bass Line


WITH THEIR WRY WORDSMITHERY, KILLER HOOKS, HIP VOCAL how he uses the major 6th as a color tone on beat
harmonies, and genre-hopping prowess, piano-based threesome Ben Folds Five two of the first two bars of the theme, before step-
provided a fresh sound during the grunge-dominated mid ’90s. Over the course ping down to the 5th of the A and G chords.) “Ben
of a stop–start 17-year-long association, the group from Chapel Hill, North Car- actually wrote that main bass line,” elucidates Sledge.
olina (Folds on piano and vocals, drummer Darren Jessee, and bassist Robert “Compositionally it was just right. I wasn’t going to
Sledge) produced four studio albums that bristle with power pop/alt-rock gems. mess with it.” The texture changes for the first verse
Sledge came to the bass at 11, via viola and guitar. A self-proclaimed “prog-rock at letter A, with the piano dropping out and Sledge
and fusion kid,” he ’shedded songs by Yes, Rush, Genesis, Allan Holdsworth, and kicking off his Big Muff to rock a clean octave-based
the Dixie Dregs, and he cites Paul McCartney, Jack Bruce, Noel Redding, John line, laced with funky 16th ghost-notes. On his use
Entwistle, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Carol Kaye, James Jamerson, and Joe Osborn of distortion, he offers: “I’d been experimenting with
among his low-end influences. After playing in a succession of cover bands and fuzz since I was a kid. If I wanted a scene change and
metal groups, Sledge fronted local thrash-funk unit Toxic Popsickle. “I was push- a lot of intensity, I’d turn it on. The Big Muff is like
ing myself to play like Les Claypool,” he recalls. “I was very inspired by [Primus’] an extension of my hands at this point. You can get a
‘Tommy the Cat’ and the way Les could sing and play that. Toxic Popsickle was lot of sounds out of it, and it’s got a lot of dynamics.”
great preparation for playing with Ben, because I was able to sing and play any- The heavily syncopated bridge section (B) leads
thing he threw at me.” to a seven-bar-long chorus (C). where the piano and
“Uncle Walter” is one of the standouts from Ben Folds Five’s self-titled bass bang out strong V7–I (A7–D) chords and re-
debut album [1994, Passenger]. Robert dishes up a neck-spanning study in deploy the rising chromatic idea from the intro
melodically supportive bass playing, a bonus tutorial on the tasteful use of and verse, further consolidating the song’s struc-
fuzz, and an effervescent solo. Sledge reports that he used a Dunlop Tortex ture. Note the tight lock between Sledge’s bass and
pick (.73) on a Gibson Explorer-shaped Hamer Blitz bass strung with D’Addario Jessee’s kick drum in this section, as well as the
roundwounds (.045–.100), running his signal through an Electro-Harmonix knowing use of space in bars 25 and 27. Bars 32–35
Big Muff into a solid-state Fender BXR 300 head with a 4x12 Fender guitar (D) reiterate the main theme, followed by a second
cabinet miked with a Shure SM57. “We did the record as a series of sets, play- verse, and a bridge and chorus (bars 36–58) that
ing everything live,” he notes. echo previous material, leading to a nine-bar middle
Following a short drum pickup, Robert announces the song’s main theme: a section at letter E. Here Robert feeds off Folds’ laid-
fuzz-heavy, four-bar-long, chord-tone-based line played high up the neck. (Dig back vibe, playing bossa-flavored root-5th lines in

56 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

bas0818_transcription_kc2_f.indd 56 6/6/18 8:06 AM

bars 59–64 and a sweet fill in bar 62. A piano solo (F) precedes a third bridge After releasing two more albums, Ben Folds Five split in 2000, reconven-
section and chorus (G–H), followed by a second piano break (I), which morphs ing in 2012 to record The Sound of the Life of the Mind, before entering hiatus
into the bass solo at J. “That was punched—the rest of the song was done again. Sledge remains musically active, playing a wide variety of gigs rang-
in one take,” Sledge explains. “We were actually just trying to get the feed- ing from jazz to disco, as well as doing local sessions, commercial work, and
back to happen at the right time [bars 103–106]. The guys were like, ‘Just teaching. He has an ongoing jazz residency at the 2nd Wind in Carrboro,
go for something crazy, and make it crazier,’ so that’s what I did. They just North Carolina, and he’s in the middle of making a record with his latest band,
couldn’t stop me, man. I was too excited,” he laughs. Observe how Robert Surrender Human. “I hadn’t listened to ‘Uncle Walter’ in a couple of years,
twice uses the song’s main hook as a springboard (bars 108–109 and 112– and I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “The solo sounded like this explosion of
113) to launch into his niftily picked lines, fashioned primarily from the D music. I thought it was messier than it was. I didn’t play it that way most of
major scale. Regarding the sassy bends that occur between bars 116 and 121, the time; I played it a lot more cleanly live. It was nice to hear that it sounded
Robert says, “They’re a very Southern kind of bend, very country. I was copy- chaotic and insane, but like it had a point, too.”
ing an Andy West solo from a Dixie Dregs song.” Following the solo, a final On copping the feel of the song, he laughs, “Just jump up and down for a
piano break (K) drives the song to a jazz-inflected close. while to get your heart going and your limbs circulated.” BP

“Uncle Walter” Transcription by Stevie Glasgow

= 144
A7 G6 D/F# Em7 D

14 16 14 12 14 12 12
12 16 14 12 10 10 14 12 10 9 9 10 11
12 12 10 12 13 14 12 14

A7 G6 D/F# Em7 D

14 16 14 12 14 12 12
12 12 16 14 12 10 10 14 12 10 9 9 10 11 12
12 12 10 12 13 14

A7 G6 D/F# Em7 D
9 A
( )

(dist. off)
(2nd time)
(2nd time)

7 5
5 5 (5) (5) 5 5 4 3 3 (3) (3) 3 3 3 2 2 0 0

A7 G6 D/F# Em7 D

(2nd time) (1st time only )

5 6 7 7 5
7 7 8 9 7 8 9 5
2 3 4 5 5 (5)(5) 5 5 4 3 3 (3)(3) 3 3 3 2 2 0 0

“Uncle Walter”
Words and Music by Ben Folds Copyright © 1995 Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC and Fresh Avery Music. All Rights Administered by Sony/ATV
Music Publishing LLC, 424 Church Street, Suite 1200, Nashville, TN 37219. International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted by
Permission of Hal Leonard LLC. / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8 57

bas0818_transcription_kc2_f.indd 57 6/6/18 8:06 AM


Em7 A7 Em7 A Dmaj7

16 B

(2nd time)
4 5 7 5 6 7 5 6 7 5 6 7 7 9 7

7 8 9 7 8 9 7 5 6 7 5 6 7 5 8 9 7 5

Em7 A Em7 A G D

(2nd time)
5 6 7 5 6 7 5 6 7
5 6 0 7 5 6 7 5 7 9 10 10 12 9
12 10

A7 D A7 D
24 C

(2nd time)

5 6 6 5 6 7
7 8 9 5 7 8 9 5
12 13 14 2 3 4 5

Em7 G A6 A7 G6 D/F#
28 D

5 6 7 7 14 16 14 12 14 12
7 8 9 7 (7) 8 9 10 10 10 12 16 14 12 10 10 14 12 10 9

Em7 D 2. Em7 G A6 Am7

34 E

(dist. off)

7 7 8 9 10 10 10 12 12
12 12 10 12 13 14 2 3 4 5 12 12

Gmaj7 F#7 C#m7b5 F#7


14 11
12 14 11 11
12 10 10 10 12 14 9 9
12 12 10 12 10 12 10 10 9 9

58 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

bas0818_transcription_kc2_f.indd 58 6/6/18 8:07 AM

Em7 G G7 A7 G6
65 F

w/dist. (dist. off)

7 5
7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 9
3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 5 5 (5) 5 5 4 3 3 (3) 3 3 0

D/F# Em7 D A7 G6 D/F# Em7 D

5 6 7 7 5
5 7 8 9 5
2 2 0 0 5 5 (5) 5 5 4 3 3 (3) 3 3 3 2 2 0 0

Em7 A7 Em7 A Dmaj7 Em7 A Em7

75 G

5 6 7 5 6 7 7 9 7 5 6 7 5 6 7
7 5 6 7 5 6 7 5 8 9 7 5 5 6 0 7 5 6 7

A G D A7 D A7 D
81 H


5 6 7 5 6 7 5 6 7
5 7 9 10 9 7 0 5 7 8 9 5 7 8 9 5

Em7 G A6 D
87 I

5 6 7
7 8 9 7 7 12
0 1 2 3 3 3 3 5
*Strike note softly & allow to transtion
into feedback one octave higher

A G D/F# A7 G6
Em7 D
104 J

14 12 12
7 14 16 14 12 14 12
0 5 5 6 6 7 16 14 12 14 12 10
12 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8 59

bas0818_transcription_kc2_f.indd 59 6/6/18 8:07 AM


D/F# Em7 D A7 G6

19 19 16 16 19 19 16 19 21 19 19 19 19 19 19 14 14 12 12

21 21 21 21 21 14 16 14 12 13 12
16 14 12 14 12 12

D/F# Em7 D A7 G6

B B B Rw
14 16 14 14 14 14 16 (18) (18)(18)(18)(18) 16 (18) 16 14 14 (16)(16)(16)(16)(16)(16)(15) 14 12
14 16 16 14 16 16 16 14

D/F# Em7 D A7

11 11 11 11 12 12 12 12 13 13 13 13 14 14 14 14 15 15 15 15 16 16 16 16 17 17 17 19 16 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 16 14

G6 D/F# Em7 D
121 J A7

(dist. off)
14(16)(16)(16)(16)(16)(16) 14 (16)14 12 11 11 11 11 12 12 12 12 13 12 11 9
14 12 11 9 11 11 11 11 9
12 12 11 12 12 11 12 12 11 12 12 11 12 12

G6 D/F# Em7 D A7 G6


10 10 9 1010 10 10 10 10 9 9 9 7 7 5 7 8 9 9 10 11 12 12 111212 12 12 111212 10 10 9 1010 10 10 9 1010

D/F# Em7 D A7 G6 D/F# Em7 D7

9 9 9 7 7 5 5 5
2 3 4 2 3 4 5 2 2 0 0 5 7

60 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

bas0818_transcription_kc2_f.indd 60 6/6/18 8:07 AM

EDITOR AWARD / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8 61

bas0818_showcase.indd 61 6/7/18 3:34 PM

F R A L I N P I C K U P S . CO M

62 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

bas0818_showcase.indd 62 6/7/18 3:34 PM

BASS SHOWCASE / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8 63

bas0818_showcase.indd 63 6/8/18 9:01 AM


64 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

SamAsh_BP_8thH_NOV17.indd 1 8/22/17 5:18 PM

bas0818_showcase.indd 64 6/7/18 3:35 PM


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Bassics BPA-1 relatively small size. I really dug the two 1/4" inputs, since I often double on
continued from page 46
bass and synth on gigs. That I could separately adjust the level of input 2 added
even more flexibility, although I was disappointed that switching between the
unit with a balanced direct output. It offers a good inputs is done via a small pushbutton on the front panel. Given all the BPA-1’s
deal of flexibility, with two switchable inputs for footswitchable functions, neglecting to make the inputs footswitchable feels
dual-instrument use, three bands of EQ, both pre- like an oversight. If it’s a matter of space, I’d happily replace the eq bypass
and post-EQ XLR outputs, a compressor, and a function, for example. Perhaps you’ll see things differently.
mute switch. Each of the BPA-1’s three EQ bands can be activated via footswitch, and each
For the most part, the BPA-1 is ruggedly built. band is colorfully backlit when on for quick ID of active bands. As mentioned
Given it’s designed for the sticky hellscape that is the above, the entire EQ circuit can also be bypassed by footswitch. The EQ is pre-
stage floor, it ought to be. The robust wedge-shaped cise and musical, with even substantial cuts and boosts yielding good tone. The
case felt substantial, as did the jacks and switches. The frequency ranges are well chosen, although I’d personally like to see the high
pots, however, wiggled a bit more than I would like; bass range (confusingly called upper bass on the switch label) extend further
it’s hard to say whether this would prove problem- than 3kHz, to add more sheen and sizzle. The single-knob VCA compressor works
atic during long-term use. Peeking inside revealed a great. The ratio and attack/release times are preset for bass, while the knob con-
neatly laid-out printed circuit board utilizing through- trols threshold and any necessary makeup gain. Associated with the compres-
hole parts. Most of the unit’s functionality comes sor—and the input and output controls—is an LED-based multi-segment meter
courtesy of circuits utilizing the TLO74 JFET-input to indicate gain and ensure you have good gain staging through the preamp.
op-amp, an extremely common IC used in audio for I tried the Bassics with a few PA-style power amps, as well as powered cabs
its low noise, good bandwidth, and fast slew rate. from Wayne Jones and Bergantino. I also used it to record direct to hard drive
The look inside also revealed that the BPA-1’s bal- in my studio. The results were stellar. It had a natural and thick sound, with
anced outputs are op-amp driven, not transformer- good low-end response and well-textured, appealing mids. The compressor was
balanced. Some audio nuts prefer transformers for good at taming transient peaks at subtle settings, which is how I tend to use
their slight coloration, while others think op-amp- compressors. The flexibility to bring individual EQ bands (or the entire circuit)
balancing provides the most hi-fi signal. Indeed, the in and out meant I could substantially alter my tone with ease. Overall, the rel-
BPA-1’s balanced outputs sounded crystal-clear and atively inexpensive BPA-1 has some of the classy vibe of my high-end gear, and
transparent throughout testing. its excellent form factor and versatility make it a truly useful front end for a
The BPA-1 is quite flexible, considering its variety of environments. Definitely worth a closer look. BP / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8 65

bas0818_soundroom_pw4_f.indd 65 6/7/18 9:56 AM


By Jim Roberts

Mark Dronge Of
DR Strings
machines from Daniel Mari, who had with a “Quantum Nickel” wrap. Ed Fried-
worked at E. & O. Mari/La Bella before land tested them for a Soundroom review
starting his own string business. “Danny in BP’s May ’15 issue, praising their per-
sold us two machines and taught us formance for both slapping and finger-
how to make strings. We started out in style playing. Regarding the Quantum
Bergen County, New Jersey, and we’ve Nickel, Ed quoted Mark as saying it is
stayed there.” Early on, Mark had a part- “a unique alloy that has never been used
ner named Ben Rapoport—thus DR— for bass strings, from a supplier that
but he bought him out about 20 years does not typically deal with the musi-
ago, and DR Strings has remained a pri- cal instrument market.”
vately held family business ever since. Moving forward, Mark reports that
DR Hi-Beams—the company’s first DR Strings is at work on another new for-
bass set—made a strong impression mulation, “a completely new bass string
when they were introduced. Round- we hope to bring out at Winter NAMM
wound stainless-steel strings, they were [in January 2019], and we’re thinking
similar to other high-grade bass strings about a second type, which will take
on the market in the late ’80s, with two longer to perfect.”
key differences: They have a round core Even with all the changes in the music
and are handmade. The round core makes business over the past 30 years, Mark
them more flexible than hexagonal-core affirms that he remains devoted to the
strings and gives them a unique sound, company’s founding principles. The DR
a bit less bright than other stainless- Strings factory is still in Bergen County,
steel strings but still clear and punchy, New Jersey, with many employees who
MARK DRONGE, THE PRESIDENT with a nice growl. One early endorser was have more than 20 years of service. All
of DR Strings, grew up in the music Marcus Miller, who appeared in the com- of its wire comes from U.S. manufac-
industry. His father, Alfred, founded pany’s ads in the ’90s and used DR strings turers. (“There are fewer suppliers than
Guild Guitars in 1952 and was a prom- for 25 years; the current artist roster there used to be, but it’s out there.”) Many
inent figure in the musical-instrument includes Victor Wooten, Verdine White, of the strings are still made using the
business until his untimely death in a Jeff Berlin, Sting, and other top players. hand-winding process, which requires
Jim Roberts was 1972 plane crash. Mark’s wife, Elisabet, Making round-core strings using months of employee training. Production
the founding editor is from the family that made Levin gui- DR’s hand-winding process is tricky, says improvements remain a continuing focus.
of Bass Player and tars in Sweden, sold in the U.S. under Mark. “It takes more time and requires And—most important—quality control
also served as the the Goya name. Django Reinhardt used a couple of extra steps. You have to slow is Mark’s supreme concern. “One time,
magazine’s publisher a Levin on his 1946 American tour, and the machine down, because the wrap wire when we were working together at Guild,
and group publisher. Julie Andrews played a Goya on a moun- won’t grip the round core like it will a hex I said to my father, ‘I don’t understand
He is the author of taintop in The Sound of Music. core. And we put a couple of flat spots at why we’re always trying to make such
How the Fender Bass Making strings, Mark says, was some- the top of the string, so the wrap wire good products. Why can’t we make them
Changed the World thing his father considered, but Guild can grip something.” a little faster and make more of them?’
and American Basses: never entered the market. “For various DR’s line now has ten types of bass And he said to me, ‘There will always be
An Illustrated History reasons, one being a lack of space, it didn’t strings, including both round-core and a demand for quality. You always have to
& Player’s Guide (both happen,” he says, “but I got a chance in hex-core sets, as well as ones for acoustic do the very best you can. Period.’”
published by Backbeat 1989 and started DR Strings.” The com- bass guitar and drop tuning. The latest For more about DR Strings, go to
Books/Hal Leonard). pany purchased its first string-making addition is Pure Blues, round-core strings BP

66 / a u g u s t 2 0 1 8

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